I’ve been reading a lot on forums about how to get kids to healthy food. It’s still something we struggle with, but I’ve noticed our struggle is different from a lot of other parents. We are not fighting against junk food.
A lot of parents write on forums saying their kids just eat junk food and carbs, and they can’t get them to eat fruits and vegetables. My kids eat a lot of carbs too but no junk food. Why? Because we don’t have any.
You really can knock off one of the bad things they are eating just by not having it in the house. It really is that simple. You see, the problem might not with your kids. It might be with you. What kind of junk food do you have in your house? Is it packets of chips, packets of biscuits, Pringles, lollies? Do you eat it? Do you eat it in moderation and expect your kids to also eat it in moderation when their little taste-buds can’t get enough of the salt or sugar?
How about just not buying it at all? So when they say “I’m hungry can I have a snack?” you can crank up the nutrition and give them something that won’t ruin their appetite and be good for them.
If you remember not to feed them 1 -2 hours before dinner then your chances of them eating dinner increase by about 50%. Sometimes it’s hard when they are whining “but I’m starving“, but in those cases break out the carrot sticks, boiled broccoli, baby tomatoes or cucumber sticks. If they turn up their nose and want some Pringles you can honestly say “there aren’t any”. Wouldn’t that be easier than arguing over how many they can have? And, it will be better for you too.
Healthy kids snacks for the sweet tooth
OK, so if your darling (or you) have a weakness for a sweet treats, there are plenty of natural foods you can substitute.
- Fresh dates. I use these to stop me drinking vino. Yep, they are an indulgence so I tell myself I can have one medjool date if I don’t have a glass of wine. Often the date wins!
- Yoghurt (with nothing added to it – not flavoured or sugared. READ the label. Greek yoghurt is popular in our house because it is so thick). Then you can add your own sugar-like flavour. Stir in one teaspoon of honey or maple syrup. Or chop up fruit/blend fruit and add it in. Let the kids make their own yoghurt pots. Crush some nuts to dress it with. Make it pretty.
- Dried fruit like apricots and sultanas. Just keep in mind these are still full of sugar so limit them to a small handful per day (their hand size, not yours).
- Fresh fruit cut up into little pieces. Skin peeled off fruit like apples. In my experience kids are lazy eaters. If it looks easier to eat then there’s a better chance of them eating it!
- Smoothies. They don’t have to be elaborate. One banana chopped up, 1/2 cup milk, 2 tablespoons yoghurt, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon cocoa or cacao powder – whizz it together – hey presto!
Healthy snacks for the savoury carb-loving kid
Carbs for kids is a controversial topic, as a lot of adults shun carbs (I mostly do in processed form). The problem is when kids are filling up on bad carbs they have no room for nutritious food. So, just make sure the good carbs happen after the nutrition. Either hold back on the carbs, or serve them in a different sitting.
What are good carbs?
Firstly let me start by saying there is much debate that any carb is a good carb. However if you are an indulger of carbs and your kids are, switching to “good carbs’ is certainly better than consuming the white stuff. Once you’ve done that then you can explore whether or not we actually need carbs. Those made from less-processed grains, like wholegrain bread, brown rice, quinoa, polenta, wholemeal pasta, rye, spelt, oats, potatoes (that you prepare) are “good”. See the pattern? No white stuff, except a bit of basmati rice now and then.
List of Healthy Carb Snacks for Kids
- Popcorn (you make with coconut oil – takes about 5 mins. 1/3 cup popping kernals, 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Melt oil in big pot with lid on medium-high heat. Drop in 2 kernals. Put lid on. When they pop add all the kernals. Put lid back on and wait until it sounds like they’ve mostly popped. Sprinkle with salt and share.)
- Baked beans (salt reduced or make your own. READ the label.)
- Brown rice crackers with peanut butter (READ the ingredients of the rice crackers. These are great, see just three ingredients, these are not – full of unnecessary ingredients that cater to addictive taste-buds. And pure peanut butter – just peanuts, no sugar or salt needed.)
- Brown rice crackers with cheddar cheese (again READ the cheese ingredients – look for low salt, no sugar, as natural as possible).
- Nuts – experiment until you find one your kid likes. Buy raw or natural nuts. Not salted or fryed. Start with macadamias, cashews, pistachios. These all seem to be generally liked by most kids. If they don’t like those try walnuts, almonds, pinenuts – whatever you can find!
- Eggs – esp boiled eggs. Not a carb, but the protein in eggs will mean they will feel full and won’t miss the carbs.
It’s often easier for you and better for your kids if you can keep it simple. Keep the snacks as close to their natural state as possible. Like nuts, fruit, popcorn. These are really simple, they save you time and they provide better nutrients than whipping up some hummus or “healthy muffins”.
Anytime you have to open a packet – like a packet of biscuits or a packet of chips, you are a long way from the natural state of food. Don’t be fooled into thinking it is more convenient. How convenient will it be in the future when your kids have rotting teeth, diabetes and other diseases caused from too much sugar and bad fats? Start today and your future self and future children with thank you.
How to get your kids to eat more vegetables
A pre-dinner snack of vegetables is a great way to get your kids to eat vegetables. About half an hour before you are planning to eat dinner, give each kid a bowl with veges in it. Try to use the vegetables they like, if they don’t like any vegetables at all then give them a very small amount of 2-3 vegetables that you think they might like.
Do they like salty foods? And the answer is pretty much always a yes from kids. Then you might like to make them some kale chips (one leaf of dino kale ripped up, massaged with olive oil, put onto a baking tray, salt and cook for 5 minutes at 200°C). Otherwise just salt their vegetables. Don’t go overboard with the salting, but don’t feel bad about it either. If your kids aren’t eating processed food (where most salt comes from), then there is nothing wrong with having a bit of salt on their vegetables. My nephew was a terrible vegetable eater, until I feed him with my kids one night and gave him a bowl of steamed broccoli, carrots and beans that were lightly salted. He asked for more. His dad didn’t believe me! BTW, we tend to eat from a small group of vegetables most nights – there is usually always carrot sticks, broccoli and then maybe frozen peas, corn on the cob or green beans. I’ll try them with a new vegetable maybe once a month. Once you find something they like, then stick to it!
Do they like butter? Add a teaspoon of butter to steamed vegetables and stir it in.
Do they like raw vegetables? Baby tomatoes, cucumber, raw carrot, celery – there will usually be something in the raw list your kid likes.
Didn’t finish their vege’s? Then no dinner. No argument, just a simple no. You’ll soon see that bowl of vegetables eaten up.
Swapping food for healthier options and chucking out all of your junk food is a great way to help your children eat healthy. It will also help you. Junk/processed food isn’t a treat. How is a food that is made in a factory without any love, with the cheapest ingredients possible that may make your kids fat, give them diabetes or some other disease a treat? If you answer “but it tastes nice”, then think again. They are tricking you with the taste. Your taste buds think it is nice either because of sugar or salt. Add some salt to real food you cook with love, it will soon taste just as good. Feed your kids with food that will nourish them and make them healthy, not foods that will make them sick. Cut back on the sugar and you soon won’t miss it, you’ll discover natural sugars taste even nicer!
p.s. Are you bored of me saying READ the label? Well I’m bored saying it, but about 70% of shoppers just don’t read the label and don’t realise what they are eating. I bet you’ll be surprised at how sugar* has managed to sneak its way into just about all packet foods you own. Go on, check now…see, it’s totally unnecessary in most of your products, it has zero, in fact a negative benefit to you and your children. And why is it there you might ask? To make the product more addictive to your taste buds so you will buy more. You are being manipulated to spend money on products that are bad for your health and more importantly, bad for your children’s health. Feeling angry? Good, go clear out your pantry and vow never to buy the crap again.
*Sugar might also be hiding under the following names:
Cane juice, cane sugar, caramel, agave, barley malt, cane juice crystals, coconut sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, demerara, dextrin, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, florida crystals, fructose, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, glucose, glucose solids, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), honey, invert sugar, maltodextrin, maltol, maltose, mannose, molasses, palm sugar, panocha, saccharose, sorghum syrup, sucrose, sweet sorgjum, turbinado sugar.