Yes! Kids Eating Healthy Can Be Fun!
By Kelly Songy Nelson
In elementary school, I ate in the school’s cafeteria. As I moved into high school, I became a sack lunch kid. We’ve all been there, you whip out your lunch and all of a sudden it’s like the opening bell just sounded on the New York Stock Exchange. I’ll give you my orange for your Jello; you gonna eat that mac-n-cheese? Fish sticks…I LOVE FISH STICKS (sure beats the tuna casserole that my Mom packed)
I’m sure if Moms could be flies on the wall each day, they’d just throw in the towel when it comes to packing their little ones a healthy lunch!
But it doesn’t have to be that way! Your kid could be known as “The Untradable”.
For those of you who follow Jimmy and I on social media, you know that the Nelson household is a healthy one! No dairy, fresh organic produce, nothing with chemicals or preservatives, we know how our meat was treated! And that’s something that we wanted to impress upon Asher when the time came to introduce solids.
I made all of his food – steamed and pureed veggies and fruits, froze them in ice cube containers and viola…clean yumminess for my munchkin! As he cut teeth, we slowly progressed to non-pureed foods, but we were still just as careful with what he ate.
As a multiple hat wearing Mom (like ALL Moms!!!), I certainly did not have the time or energy to make dinner for me and Jimmy then a completely different dinner for Asher. We wanted him to get used to eating the things that we ate. Here’s what an average weekly grocery list looks like (I organize it the way the store’s laid out…I know some of you are cringing at the thought of a list, much less one organized by store layout!!!!):
Green beans, spinach, sweet potatoes, cabbage, avocados, bananas, apples (or peaches), lemons, bulk rolled oats, coconut oil, almond butter, mustard, whole grain pasta or quinoa, tuna (wild, no salt added), chicken, beef (for Jimmy), ground turkey, eggs, coconut milk, tea bags, Ezekiel bread. Asher eats (and loves) all of these things – except for beef, we haven’t given him any red meat or pork (I don’t eat red meat or pork either – only chicken, turkey or wild caught fish). Most people don’t believe that he loves (and I mean LOVES) avocados!!!
There was a little stretch where we just ate chicken – no turkey. Asher was getting a little burnt out on chicken, so I ran to Whole Foods and picked up some ground turkey. I was going to make him some little turkey burgers (he’s in the stage where he likes to feed himself!). But when I started making dinner, I was in the mood to make a fun dinner! I grabbed a handful of cookie cutters from the pantry and got busy! I made turkey burger dinos, hearts, bears, boots, letters and footballs (the footballs didn’t turn out so well!!!!). They were all “Asher size”!! I gave it to him paired with some whole grain pasta and apples for dessert. He flipped!!! He thought it was so cool to be able to make his dinner talk! And all it took was just a few extra minutes on my part to use the cookie cutters to shape the burgers!
I will say that I know that we are blessed. We have a very healthy boy with a VERY healthy appetite! I know there are a lot of parents that I talk to whose kids are super picky or just don’t have much of an appetite. What do you do in these situations? Get creative to make eating healthy fun! I know my Mom used to blend in vitamins and veggies into our food! It’s all about making it fun for them! No one wants to open their lunch to find the same hum-drum stuff day in and day out. Healthy options don’t take a lot of time or resources!
I asked some of my Mommy friends some of the things that they make for their kids – good, clean options that will have your kids cheering at lunchtime instead of auctioning their brown bags!
Apples, raisins and almond butter – I recommend getting the little snack size plastic containers – this way you can buy fresh almond butter and just spoon in a TBSP instead of getting the packets or pouches that usually contain preservatives.
If you’re making sammies for the kids, beware of the meat that you choose. Most deli meats are loaded with sodium and other chemicals. It would be fun to bake a pan of chicken or turkey breasts and just put sliced chicken breast on whole grain bread for them (it’s like Thanksgiving leftovers every day – YUM!!!!)
Got a fry guy? Instead of french fries, try sweet potatoes (our new favorite are Japanese Sweet Potatoes – they’re sweeter than the regular orange sweet potatoes – Asher loves them!!) Chop them up into french fry type strips and bake them! I usually sprinkle olive oil over them and a little salt-free seasoning for a little punch of flavor! This goes great with the dino turkey burgers!!!
Love those carbs? Breads, pastas…you can still give them to your kiddos, just be smart about the types that you’re buying (and serve in moderation). This is where label reading comes in handy! You want whole GRAIN bread…this is different than whole wheat bread. We only use Ezekiel sprouted grain bread in our house and we usually get the low sodium kind. They also make a super delish cinnamon raisin bread that’s amazing with almond butter for those PB&Jers!!!
Veggies…carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, spinach…put yourself in your kids’ shoes, Moms and Dads. Would you want plain green beans with half of the vine still hanging on it? Or the tough, chewy end of the asparagus or cauliflower…who eats cauliflower?! Answer…we DO…because we make it fun!
Think like your kids think (or how you used to think as a kid). Don’t serve spinach on the day that you mowed the lawn – and when you serve it, use fresh spinach, not the stuff Popeye ate! Shove a bunch of spinach into a steamer and let it work it’s magic! Carrots – I chop them into fry shapes and steam them. Asher loves grabbing a handful of them and pretends to be the dinosaur and chomps through the whole handful!!! Cauliflower – I steam it and puree it and it tastes like mashed potatoes!!! I have some in the fridge now and I’m excited to make them for Asher tomorrow for dinner! Broccoli – some Moms told me that it’s all about the presentation of food sometimes. Broccoli lucks out here since it looks like trees! Steam them just a little (still crunchy and bright green – not wilty and mushy). Chop the ends off so they’ll stand on the plate and arrange the meat or grains around them! Jungle dinner is served!!!
We love coconut oil and we use it at EVERY meal! Breakfast is usually eggs…with coconut oil drizzled on top! Asher loves the flavor and is sometimes known to give his Nana the ‘stink eye’ if he’s visiting her and she forgets to put it on there!!! Not to mention that coconut oil has so many amazing health benefits (check out the book The Coconut Oil Miracle for more details).
So, parents, it’s all about being smart and making it fun for them! You may have to baby step your way away from boxed mac-n-cheese and fish sticks, but be persistent. Get creative in the kitchen. Create fun surprises so when they open up their lunchboxes they forget about the NYSE chaos that’s around them and they become an Untradable!!!!
I’d love to hear some of your favorite healthy treats that you make for your kids and the creative ways you get them to try new foods! Visit me on my Facebook page.