Ways to get Kids to Eat Healthy Foods, Part 5

I saw this helpful hint in a Dr. Sears newsletter and thought it was a great idea.

Keep “Grow Foods” In Sight

Put the things that you want your family to eat in plain sight. Keep “Grow Foods” like veggies, fruits, beans, whole grain breads, nuts, and olives either right out on the kitchen counter or right in front of the fridge or pantry shelves for easy access. The more you and your family see these good food choices the more likely they are to get consumed. I often place a small bowl of raw nuts in my husband’s office for him to nibble on throughout the day. On the other hand, keep special treats way in the back of the refrigerator or pantry, or on a high shelf where it won’t be grabbed by impulse. This also helps keep mom and dad reaching for “grow foods”.

Hayden Sears-Livesay

©2008, AskDrSears.com, used by permission

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Ways to get Kids to Eat Healthy Foods, Part 4

HOW WE INTRODUCE FOODS TO OUR BABIES MAKES A DIFFERENCE

You will likely agree that most advice given to parents around the world concerning infant feeding is based in large part on culture.  Since we eat mainly to nourish our bodies, however, it would make more sense to look at what would best nourish our babies and base our infant/toddler feeding practices on that.

That realization came to me when I was pregnant with my second child.  The following recommendations are a result of my research during that time.  I went back into the textbooks I used in college and revisited the sections on child development, the digestive system, the immune system, and much more.  I also learned a huge amount from George Wootan, M.D., who confirmed what I was learning.  (I attended his course “Pediatrics: A Course for Parents” and read his book Take Charge of Your Child’s Health.)  I successfully put what I learned into practice and have happy, healthy children who love a variety of very healthy foods to show for it. 

Much is known today about a baby’s digestive system.  The following suggestions are based on what is known about the enzymes present in babies’ gastrointestinal tracts at the different stages of development.  Enzymes are the specific protein catalysts that assist in the chemical reactions necessary for digestion to take place.  (If you want a topic for interesting research, learning about enzymes is fascinating!) 

Breast milk is all a baby needs to thrive for the first year of life.  A normal, healthy mother has no problem producing enough quality milk to completely sustain a child for the first one to two years as long as breast feeding is not rigidly scheduled and Mom is adequately nourished and hydrated.  Breast milk comes with its own enzymes, so it can be easily digested, making the nutrients in the milk completely bio-available for the baby’s nourishment.  You just can’t improve on God’s design!!! 

Supplemental formula, baby cereal, and baby food are not necessary.  Babies are not able to digest it well because babies do not produce enough enzymes of their own to adequately break it down into useable parts.  Water and juice are also not needed until baby is over one year old if feeding is done according to the following plan: 

  • Begin with protein foods (not eggs, cheese, peanuts, beef, pork, or chicken meat) at around 11 or 12 months of age.  Fresh fish such as salmon (unless there is a fish allergy in the family) or red lentils are some examples.  Believe it or not, baby’s digestive system can digest proteins before it can digest carbohydrates. 

  • Add one new food a week and watch for allergy symptoms.  

  • After protein foods, add vegetablesBabies usually love vegetables if they are introduced prior to fruit.  The closer to raw a food is, the more active enzymes that food packs.  Raw food is more digestible than cooked food because of those enzymes, so don’t be tempted to cook your baby’s food to a mush.  Instead, put your food processor to work!  Again, no more than 1 new food a week! 

  • Once baby is enjoying some protein foods and a wide variety of vegetables, grains and fruits that are both high in carbohydrates can be introduced.  Babies have a harder time digesting carbohydrates, so they should be introduced as late as possible.  Remember, only 1 new food a week! 

  • Babies (and many children and adults, for that matter) can not adequately digest cow’s milk and cheese.  It causes much tummy trouble even for those who are not allergic.  If a white liquid is needed, good alternatives are goat’s milk or rice milk.  

  • Continue breast feeding as baby’s primary source of nutrition.  It should take about six months to transition from breast milk as the primary food to solids as the primary food.

Some people will notice babies showing signs that they want to participate in mealtime around 5 or 6 months.  This desire is often interpreted as hunger.  According to Dr. Wootan, babies at that age are becoming super social and are only showing interest in the social aspect of sitting around the table and putting interesting toys in their mouths like the rest of the family.  His advice is to give each family member a toy for use only at mealtime to share with baby while the rest of the family eats.  We even let our little ones play with a plastic cup like the grown-ups.  When they feel like part of that daily ritual of “playing with mouth toys at the table”, they stop acting so “hungry” and have great fun. 

It is important to note that some exclusively breast fed babies who have been sleeping through the night may begin to wake for an extra nursing in the middle of the night around 8 months of age.  That is perfectly normal.  They are becoming much more active at that age and are in need of more calories to support their growing, active bodies.  Their little tummies are no longer able to hold enough breast milk to make it all the way through the night, so they will temporarily need that night nursing.  The temptation is to give the baby rice cereal at night to hold them over until morning.  This is a big mistake.  The rice cereal is not easily digested and fills the tummy with inadequate nutrition in place of the perfect breast milk nutrition baby needs so much (all that extra effort and energy needed for digestion causes the baby to sleep longer).  They do eventually grow out of their need for that night nursing when they are older and eating table food. 

As you begin to introduce table food to your baby, don’t be surprised that much of it will end up in the hair, on the bib, or on the floor.  At first, only some will actually be swallowed!  That’s OK!!!  Your child is learning and developing, and feeding himself is an important part of his development.  In time, more will be eaten and less mess will be made. 

Remember that every baby is unique and you will need to take into consideration your own baby’s needs when making decisions concerning feeding.  

(This article origianlly appeared in the Charis e-newsletter 02/08.)
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Ways to get Kids to Eat Healthy Foods, Part 3

GET KIDS TO TRY NEW FOODS
AND HAVE FUN IN THE PROCESS!

Having dealt with picky eaters, I know how hard it is to get kids to try new foods– especially foods that are good for them!  I failed miserably with my first son (he would agree and laugh), but I now have 3 huge success stories and have learned A LOT along the way.

In my last 2 posts, I talked about ways to teach our children to love healthy food before they are born and during breastfeeding, but many people have children who are older and need ideas to help them enjoy healthier food.  Here is what has worked in my family and in many other families as well. 

Include children in meal preparation.  They are more likely to eat something new if they prepare it themselves!  Don’t be afraid to allow your children to work in the kitchen!  With supervision they will not get hurt!  Obviously, a 4-year-old won’t be given the job of dicing up the carrots, but he would probably love to squeeze the juice out of a lemon or put ingredients into a bowl and stir. 

THIS IS FUN!!!  In our household, each child is assigned a night each week to plan and prepare dinner.  I provide a binder full of delicious, helathy recipes and they get to pick which meal they want to prepare that week.  I assist the youngest (8 years old) at times if she needs a little help, but for the most part, I only provide a little supervision.   My 10 year old very rarely needs help and my 13 year old needs no help or supervision at all. 

The results of their involvement in meal preparation have been amazing!  They have grown an interest in the culinary arts, they are fantastic little gourmet chefs, they eat a wider variety of foods because they don’t want to make the same meals over and over again, and it gives me at least three nights off of kitchen duty each week!  They are always so proud of their accomplishment and love the appreciation and applause they get from Daddy!

Here are a few more pointers:

Make food changes gradually.  Choose one thing to begin with that is likely to be a success– such as switching from white rice to brown rice, for instance.  Having one victory gives parents the confidence to try the next change and is also proof to the child that eating healthy isn’t all that bad afterall.

Parents must practice what they preach!  If we want our children to eat their greens, then we must eat them, too!  It helps to find delicious healthy recipes that can be enjoyed by everyone.  I’ll be posting more really good recipes on this site as time goes by.

If you don’t want your kids to eat it, don’t buy it!  If you want Junior to stop eating so many sugary foods, don’t keep sugary foods in your home!  Instead, stock your pantry and refrigerator with healthy foods.  If apples and pecans are all that’s available for an afternoon snack, kids will eventually try it and will most likely find out that they like apples and pecans.

Make food appealing to children’s imaginations!  Be creative!  Kids love using their imaginations, so use that to your advantage at mealtime!  Do this by giving the food funny names (broccoli becomes “trees” and sprouts become “hair”), making up a story about the meal that the child can add to after each bite, making the food fun-looking (cutting veggies into fun shapes and playing name that animal, etc),  allowing the child to arrange the food on the plate creatively and calling it a masterpiece, adding faces to food and allowing the child to give the “people” on his plate funny names, etc.

Serve healthy food that TASTES DELICIOUS!  When I was a child, vegetables were usually tasteless and cooked to a mush.  No wonder I wasn’t interested in eating them!  It is our responsibilty as parents to learn how to prepare healthy foods in delicious ways.  I have already posted some… stay tuned to my blog for more kid-approved healthy recipes!

Grow your own vegetable and herb garden.  Kids enjoy eating the fruit of their labor.  They have fun picking a cucumber they grew themselves and eating it with a homemade dip they made themselves in the blender.  It is also fun to pick fresh basil or dill for their recipes.  A garden provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment!

In my next post, I’ll share even more tried and true ways to help children love the foods that will keep them healthy for life!

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Ways to get Kids to Eat Healthy Foods, Part 2

NURSING MOMS CAN TEACH THEIR BABIES TO LOVE HEALTHY FOOD

In my last post, I mentioned that pregnant moms can begin to influence their child’s food preferences by eating the foods during pregnancy that they want their children to like eating later on.  Breastfeeding works the same way.

In addition to the many other benefits of breastfeeding, if a baby is breastfed he will learn to enjoy the foods his mother eats.  What a nursing mom eats flavors her milk the same way it flavors her amniotic fluid; so a nursing baby will get to sample the flavors of the foods his mother eats.  So, eating healthy food while nursing will not only cause breastmilk to be full of the nutrients baby needs to grow, it will also teach baby to like the flavors of healthy food.

In addition to breastfeeding teaching a child to like healthy foods, it also teaches a child to enjoy variety.  Unlike formula that tastes exactly the same every time it is mixed, the flavor of breastmilk is different at each feeding according to the foods the nursing mother eats. 

I know some of you may be thinking, “But my kids are already preferring not-so-healthy foods!  How can I help them enjoy healthier food?”   In my next post, I’ll share some tried and true ways of helping children through the transition to eating a variety of healthier foods– without tears or battles at the dinner table.

Stay tuned…

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Ways to get Kids to Eat Healthy Foods

IT ALL STARTS BEFORE THEY’RE BORN

My first child was a very picky eater.  Even to this day (he is now 21 years old), he doesn’t like vegetables.  For years I assumed that some kids are just born picky and that there’s nothing you can do about it.  Now, however, I know that while it is true that some are born more particular than others, there are a number of things that can be done to positively influence a child’s food choices.

This will be the first in a series of posts I write about what I have learned over the years from the hundreds of families with whom I have worked, from the studying I have done, and from what I have discovered in the little laboratory of my home with my own children.  (I’m very happy to report that my other 3 children have much better eating habits than my first!  More about that later.) 

Children’s food preferences can be influenced
even before they’re born! 

It’s true!  What a woman eats during her pregnancy flavors her amniotic fluid… and baby drinks that fluid.  So, if you want a junk food junkie, then eat all the sweets and fast food you want.  But, if you want a child who loves vegetables, start introducing him to a wide variety of veggies before he is born by eating them yourself.   

This fact is backed up in scientific literature and has proven itself true with my own children.  My first was born when I was 17 and clueless.  I probably ate a little better when I was pregnant than I would have otherwise, but I still ate like a typical teen– certainly not healthy by any stretch of the imagination.  The other three, on the other hand, were born later in my life when I was much more aware and educated.  My first, as I already mentioned, was (& still is) a “picky eater” who, for the most part, won’t eat anything that grows on plants.  The others, however, eat almost exclusively foods that grow on plants– and thoroughly enjoy their food! 

Of course, what we eat during pregnancy is only the beginning of influencing our child’s food preferences.  It takes more than a healthy diet during pregnancy to have the greatest possible impact. 

I will share in future posts about what can be done during a child’s infancy, early childhood, and even into his teens to help him develop a lifetime love of the kinds of food that will keep him healthy for life. 

I’d love to get your feedback about this (and any of the other posts on my blog, too).  Feel free to comment!  🙂