You want healthy kids, but feeding kids is hard, especially when they’re picky or just plain stubborn. These tips will win them over to the health side!
Let me start off by saying I am not a mother, but I am a nanny and a very experienced one at that. Sure, I may not pay for the groceries, but I do understand what it’s like to have your children trying to dictate what they eat and how much of it.
This is an open letter to anyone who works with kids: parents, nannies, school staff, and all others. Food either helps or harms, and it is absolutely up to us to make sure our children are on the help end of that equation. We need to stop allowing our children to have Mac n Cheese three times a week for dinner. Vegetables should not be an optional side dish—they need to be the main course. Pair them with a protein like tempeh or veggie sausages and a fruit for a snack, and your child will be fueled and ready to go!
As a nanny, I can tell you most all meal times fall into one of three scenarios:
I am allowed to choose what the child eats, but there is no healthy food in the house.
I am ready to feed the child fun healthy choices, and the child screams that he or she only wants fish sticks or Macaroni.
The parent requests I feed the child something cringe-worthy (Toaster Struddles, Ramen noodles, cereal where the second ingredient is sugar), and I must oblige.
Be an Example
Children learn by example; therefore, we must be prepared to lead. I always munch on carrot sticks or some raw veggie. One family I worked for had two children who always asked for carrots. I began packing more, and eventually their mother began buying big bags of carrots with which the kids would take out and munch on without any prompting whatsoever. This seems so simple but it is so powerful. Instead of grabbing a Gogurt or sugary granola bar, these kids were choosing vegetables!
If a parent smokes cigarettes or drinks soda, the child will see that as acceptable. If a parent learns about the harmful effects of soda, for example, they can, in turn, educate their child and stay away from sugar-laden beverages.
Make mealtime fun!
Set aside time to cook with your child instead of for them or always eating prepackaged food on the go. I understand busy lifestyles, but time invested now will set your child up to succeed later. Children value your time, so cooking healthy food with you will be exciting!
Grocery Shop Together
This is an opportunity to teach children to read labels and always shop in the out skirts of the store (where the produce is—avoid the processed middle aisles!)
Buy in Bulk
Oats, garbanzo beans, lentils—eating healthy does not mean spending more money.
Make Your Own “Junk Food”
Dehydrate apple slices to make chips; blend up frozen bananas, cashew milk, and cocoa powder to make ice cream; make popsicles from sugar-free juices (making sure to avoid aspartame!). There is a healthy alternative for everything—even “junk” food!
Always try new things. What veggies haven’t you cooked with yet? Try a new one a week! Or perhaps try implementing new cooking helpers like a crock-pot. Try making your own salad dressings or sprinkling different seeds on top of dishes. Food never has to be boring.
Hummus and veggies!
Food is fun. Food is fuel. Food is for kids (and adults!) to become the best they can be. It is up to us as adults to make the best food choices for ourselves and for our children. Thanks for reading—now go enjoy a snack!