Do you have fussy kids? Are you trying to help them eat better? Or maybe they have food intolerances and you’re trying to make changes?
My boys aren’t overly fussy, but I do know what it’s like to make dramatic changes to their diet. Several years back, we had to make changes to the way we ate.
We were advised to shift from a regular modern diet (carb heavy, processed, low fat) to a more wholefoods/organic/paleo way of eating to improve my son’s health.
To make life easier, and fairer on my little boy, the whole family took part – some more willingly than others!
Here are some tips I learnt along the way to make the switch easier:
Add, don't remove – start with looking at what nutrition can you ADD into your child’s diet? Flood their bodies with nutrients and chances are they won’t crave junk so regularly. Try sprinkling seeds or nuts to yoghurt or cereal for extra protein and fat. Can you add extra veggies in their the sandwich or spag bol? How about coconut oil or avocado into their fruit smoothie?
Make healthier swaps – no need to go without when you can upgrade the quality of their diet. Choose real food over processed. Try swapping cornflakes for oats. Sweetened commercial yoghurts for plain Greek or coconut yoghurt with honey. Regular wheat bread for a quality spelt sourdough. Margarine for avocado or real butter.
Don’t have the junk in the house – out of sight, out of mind! If it’s not there, they can’t ask for it. Or at least you’re much less likely to cave in and drive to the shops!
Make one change at a time – start with upgrading breakfast. The meal that sets them up for the day. We always try to include fat and protein in their breakfast – eggs, avocado, nuts/seeds or coconut yoghurt or goats cheese.
Be mindful of language and energy - are you making junk sound exciting? And veggies sound boring or associating it with punishment? “Eat your veggies or you won’t get to XYZ”? We choose not to use food as a reward. I grew up with food used as a distraction and reward, and it’s such a challenge breaking those patterns as an adult.
Yes, it’s a treat here at times but not a reward for behaviour. My goal is for them to see food as nourishing fuel, when they’re hungry, not as an emotional distraction or reward. I want them to notice how it can make them feel physically (do you think that sore tummy is because of those two pieces of birthday cake? ) and as a way to have energy, nourish growing brains and show respect to their bodies.
You’re the parent – when they’re little, we get to choose what they eat, they decide how much. If my boy doesn’t eat his dinner one night, we don’t force it. I know he won’t starve. It remains there for if he chooses to eat later. Sounds harsh, but it has helped us set boundaries and healthy eating patterns. Kind of like wearing a seatbelt - it’s non negotiable because it’s for their own good. Call me a tough mumma, but having this approach helped us when he was screaming in pain and we had to cut out the inflammatory foods.
Pick your battles – there’s a time and place to stay firm. Birthday parties? Friends houses? Special occasions? Maybe not the best place to start implementing changes! I fill my boys up with nutritious food before we head to parties. If they’ve eaten a bit of extra junk, the next meal is a healthy one. No biggie. It’s what we do on a regular basis that makes the biggest difference.
Let me know if you'd like more tips on this topic - love to hear what's most helpful for you!