Do you ever feel like you’re in a losing battle when it comes to your kids and nutrition? Would you like to instill in your child a desire for healthy eating?
Our family of 11 was your classic “fast food” family until a health crisis forced us to re-evaluate our food choices. (Read our story here). I knew little about cooking and was completely overwhelmed with the thought of a diet change. But the health of my nine children demanded it. Reluctantly and with great trepidation I embarked on the journey.
It has been more than five years since we made our decision, and I stand amazed at our progress. What once felt like restriction now feels like freedom. Are you looking to make a change in your family?
How to Get Kids to Eat Healthy – 8 Tips from My Kids and Me!
Suggestions from me
1. Offer a trial period
Kids don’t respond to “forever.” They respond better to a short term goal. When we embarked on the Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet in 2010, I asked for one month. Five years later we’re still enjoying eating a real food diet, but my kids would not have responded favorably to a five-year plan. (Read more about our GAPS experiment here.)
2. Explain why you’re suggesting the changes
Even if it means postponing the changes, learn the benefit of nutrition when it comes to health. I bought a large poster of the digestive system and learned the intricacies of the large and small intestines, as well as the stomach, to explain my motivation for suggesting the experiment. The night before we started the GAPS diet I used the poster to explain our 1-month trial. (Read more about our radical diet change in the post A GAPS Diet Reflection.)
3. Allow them to vent and express their feelings about the transition.
It’s not easy for adults, let alone children, to live with our culture’s food pressure. Listen to their feelings and express empathy. The night before our GAPS adventure I showed them a clip from the movie Breaking and Entering. The movie is not family-friendly. However, one scene shows Jude Law’s character sitting down to a dinner of chicken and vegetables. His wife explains the role diet can play in restoring health to their ill child. The daughter throws a temper tantrum because of the missing ice cream. It helped my kids to see another family trying to improve their heath through diet.
4. Continue to celebrate holidays with special food
I have learned that any processed food can be created with real food. This requires some research and experimentation, but with alternative sweeteners like stevia, xylitol, raw honey, fruit, etc. desserts are possible! While your choice of sweetener will depend on your specific goals, don’t give up on the possibility of keeping birthdays and holidays special.
Suggestions from my kids
My three youngest children who were 12, 10 and nine years of age when we made this transition.
5. Let kids experiment in the kitchen (Kaitlyn)
Eating healthy offers kids and opportunity to be creative. Let them experiment in the kitchen. If they ask for an ingredient, do your best to get it and let them create.
Some of Kaitlyn’s creations:
6. Give your kids space when they go out. (Kaitlyn)
You control what food they have at home, but as they get older, they control what they eat away from home. Let them learn from their mistakes. I had some donut holes during the first year of our diet change and had a stye in my eye for six weeks. I learned the hard way what I want to eat.
7. Be ready to do this along with the kids. (Colin)
There is no way to teach a math problem if you don’t know how to solve it. You have to take this journey with the kids. They need a role model to look up to. When I say journey, I do mean journey. It’s a long path, but it’s all worth it. (See Colin’s reflection on his transition away from processed food here.)
*Colin produced a video showing kids how to chop food safely. See How to Use a Knife.)
8. Stand firm. (Brandon)
Stand strong as a parent. When you don’t back down, it doesn’t give me a choice. Have a firm foot.
*Brandon has become an awesome chef in the last five years. Here are a few of his recipes!
Wondering what’s for breakfast? Brandon offers a week of breakfast highlights here.
It’s not easy to be a parent in a fast food world. Unfortunately, it’s up to us as parents to take the initiative. The good news is transitioning to real food is not only rewarding as a mom; it’s one of the best things we can do for our kids health!
- 51Many of us are considering a dietary change, one with fewer processed, "boxed" foods. Others are contemplating going gluten-free. Perhaps chronic illness is a motivating factor. Or a child with behavioral issues. Or merely a general desire to eat healthier. All sorts of doubts creep in when we make a…
Loved this post. I especially enjoyed the fact that you included feedback from your children. Kaitlyn’s suggestion was so perfect. My son had the same sort of experience with horrible acne from drinking coke. He rarely drinks it any more but the lesson learned was much more effective than anything I could have said or done. The trial period is also a great idea.
Thanks for sharing! I’ve shared. 🙂
Andrea Fabry says
Thank you Carol! I’ll pass along to Kaitlyn. It’s amazing how kids catch on.
linda spiker says
Such an important topic and I love your tips!
Emily @ Recipes to Nourish says
I love you kids suggestions! #5 and #8 especially. Thanks for sharing this, it’s very helpful.
These are great. I’ve done this with my son since we’ve been gluten free and traditional cooking since he was born. We’ve got lots of transitions and things have slipped a bit and (he’s a teen now) he’s pushing back. I’m going to review my food strategy and let him see this. He used to be my help in the kitchen, but now it’s not cool. Thanks for this at the right time for me!
Andrea Fabry says
I’m glad, Nina…it’s natural for kids to push back. I’m glad they have the foundation, though. At least they know what healthy eating looks like and can always come back to it.
Kaila Fish says
Hi Andrea, I wanted to ask you about why you felt the stye on your eye was from the donuts holes you ate? My husband runs a bakery and he gets styes quite a bit. I’ve been urging our family to eat healthier over the last few years and we blamed the styes more on the cleansing of the skin due to working with flour all day long. Curious on your thoughts…
Andrea Fabry says
It was my daughter who got the stye. She was in 8th grade at the time and had been eating perfectly clean for more than a year. The donut holes were the first processed, sugary food she had. It was clear to her that it was related because it emerged right after the donuts. I know there can be a variety of triggers or causes, but in her case it was clearly related.