GETTING YOUR LITTLE ONES TO EAT THEIR GREENS – PART TWO
Last week I posted about getting younger kids to eat well by keeping them engaged at the table with reading stories.
This week I’m still including preschoolers but this is more relevant to those with older children too.
I’m covering 2 points this post
1. Immunity / body growth
2. More ways to get the good stuff in
I think it is important to talk with kids about why we eat food. That food isn’t just something to fill our tummies, it has a purpose, that each food has many many nutrients and how our bodies use those nutrients to grow and develop an immune system to protect us from becoming sick.
Even really young children are interested in the body and how it works. It just needs to be explained in a way that they can identify with and understand. This is how I explain our immune system and how food makes us grow to my kids…….
“Inside our bodies we have an immune system…it is like having a special army of super heroes in our body. Our army keeps all the baddie bugs out that can make us sick. We need to feed our army really healthy food so that our superheroes can be big, strong and fight to kill the baddies. If we eat junky food (lollies, chips, fizzes, packet foods, no vegetables) our army gets really tired, they start lying down and the baddies creep past them and make us sick!!! BUT if we eat lots of green food made by nature and food with lots of colours, veges, fruit etc then our Army gets strong and healthy and the baddies can’t get past them.”
Praise them for attempting every bite of a healthy food, ‘wow your army is going to love that piece of capsicum, it will be giving the army special powers to get those nasty baddies’ (you can tell I have boys, but you could make a fearless force of Charlie’s angels for your girls or beautiful fairies that kick some serious ass!)
“Every bite of food we eat gets made into a part of our body, a bone cell, a blood cell, a bit of our muscles or our brain. I really want my body to be made of healthy food so it isn’t weak. If our body is made of junk food then that part of our body is weak and can’t work properly “
Using analogies like this teach our kids the importance of looking at food as fuel and what nutrients each food gives our bodies….. For example we love seeds in our house, they are such a nutrient dense food, full of essential minerals for our bones and teeth, good fats for our hair and skin, and they’re like a broom that sweeps our gut and bowel so all the dirt gets cleaned out. We also talk about how the gelatinous coating around chia seeds suck up the toxic poisons that get into us like the fumes we breathe in when a bus goes past … the chia sucks that smoke up and takes it out of our body into the toilet! They’re not only learning about how awesome chia seeds are they’re learning about how our body uses food to eliminate toxins.
“Food makes us feel happy or sad. Junky food makes us feel sad afterwards, sick, tired, grumpy, angry……Healthy food makes us feel happy, excited and gives us energy to have fun” This can be especially seen after a birthday party, when kids go hard on sugar and come down with a crash….it’s important to acknowledge how they are feeling and explain how that food made us feel that way, what we could try to eat instead next time or maybe have a little bit less of the sweet food so we don’t feel so yucky. (essentially they’ve been poisoned by excess sugar!)
When we eat we usually have a chat about what I’ve served up and what each food is giving us nutritionally….this gives the kids buy in, they innately want to be healthy, they want their Army to be strong and their cells to be healthy. Take parsley for example, not generally a favourite among the younger ones, but once we talk about our army and how they love parsley because it cleans the armies blood and gives them supersonic powers ….. Gulp in it goes no questions asked! My youngest isn’t too into textures and wasn’t too keen on nuts, but he knows that Brazil nuts give him selenium that keep his throat healthy (thyroid) so he will happily chow down a couple a day…”there mummy now my throat will be happy” he says! Since he learnt the connection between his body’s health and that food, he happily eats his brazil nuts in the morning no questions asked.
I feel that it is really important to teach our children the correlation between food and health, physical health, mental health and how we interact with others. If this awareness is fostered in them they become aware of their bodies, its wants and needs. Most importantly awareness of how they feel and what foods makes them feel good and bad. This will help them make well informed choices as they grow up.
TIPS FOR GETTING THE GOOD STUFF IN
Last week I talked about keeping them happy at the table once their attention wavers. This week I’m going to suggest trying smoothies and fresh juices with your kids.
These two methods are one of the easiest ways to get nutrients in.
– Make sure you have a good smoothie maker that doesn’t leave chunks.
– Start basic, banana, berries, milk…..slowly add in more good stuff, spinach, kale, soaked seeds / nuts or oats as a milk replacement. Sweeten with pineapple, bananas and dates.
– Keep offering and don’t give up. Even ¼ of a cup of these smoothies contain more nutrients than packet cereal could ever offer.
– Offer the smoothie first. Explain they can still have their usual breakfast food, but they need to try their smoothie first, explain how their army needs it. The more of the smoothie they have the more it fills them up and crowds out the other less desirable foods. Soon they’ll be having half a smoothie and only 1 piece of toast instead of two. Or a smoothie and only 1 weetbix instead of 3.
– The aim is to move away from packaged processed breakfasts completely, opting for nutrient dense smoothies and say oatmeal or eggs as other options for breakfast.
They’ll be loaded with amazing nutrients for the day and full till morning tea. You would have crowded out the bad stuff!
If they don’t like the texture of the smoothie try using a straw, all kids love straws, makes smoothie drinking super easy. I highly recommend starting with one.
Again you can try reading stories to little ones snuggling them on your knee reading while they’re sipping on a smoothies, it will be gone in no time.
I give my kids smoothies for breakfast (they have porridge as well in winter) and juices with other healthy snacks for afternoon tea.
A juice gets those amazing nutrients into them without the effort of eating all that green food (of course it is still important for them to eat veges in their true form but juicing is a fantastic way to double their green intake with every little effort.)
The ratio for juicing is 2/3 green i.e. cucumber, silver beet and 1/3 sweet i.e. orange.
Starting with cucumber, lettuce and apple its very palatable; it just tastes like apple juice…you very slowly move into more dark green veges or different flavours. Again a straw is your best friend here.
– Get the kids to help
– Name the juice i.e. green hulk juice
– Use a cool straw
– Talk about the army in their body and how excited they are to get all that goodness!
So keep trying to get the good stuff in, learn together about food and respect your body with the food you give it