The new year always renews our hope and creates the promise for better things, especially this year. I think we can all agree that 2020 was a roller coaster ride of emotions, and we are all looking forward to better times ahead!
Have you created a short list of resolutions for the year? I know I’m excited about mine. As a nurse and a mom, one of my consistent resolutions is to find new ways to keep my kids excited about eating real food. Healthy food for kids is vital for their growth and development, but we live in a world where they are influenced at every turn to eat salt, unhealthy fat, and sugar. It can be hard to keep them enjoying real food without a battle.
If you’re looking to focus on real food for your kids in 2021, I’m excited to share food advice from a nurse who’s also a mom. I know firsthand that it’s not always easy to get kids on board with eating right, but I’ve got some tried-and-true tips that are sure to help, including healthy food for kids and healthy snacks for kids!
Getting Real Kids to Eat Real Food
Real food is nutrient-dense, which really matters for early brain development. Starting babies off with real food makes a big difference in their physical and cognitive development quality. When your baby is ready for table foods, their needs echo our own. They need foods that are healthy, taste great, and promote growth. You can make your own baby food and control the ingredients and nutrients that go into each meal your baby enjoys.
Don’t be intimidated by the idea of making your own baby food. It takes very little effort, and you can easily combine foods creating tastes and textures that even the pickiest of eaters will enjoy. Here are some of the tips I use to help introduce real food to your baby and toddlers.
Try and Try Again
Your baby may not like certain foods the first time around. Don’t get discouraged. It can take seven to eleven times for them to adopt a new food. Keep offering it and consider mixing foods they already like with a new food. Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene and taste great. Mix in a cruciferous vegetable like cauliflower for the added benefits of magnesium, calcium, iron, and vitamin C. The taste of the sweet potato can mask the cauliflower’s taste, making it an easy yes for your baby.
Start Out with Vegetables
We all know how nutritious vegetables are. They offer some of the best vitamins and minerals available. Introducing vegetables before fruits can help your baby create a preference for them. Fruit is great, but the sweetness can cause babies to prefer fruits over veggies and make it a bit harder to keep them excited about healthy vegetables. Hold off on introducing fruits until your baby has attached to a few favorite veggies.
Don’t Forget the Healthy Fats
Babies need healthy fats. Grass-fed butter, ghee, and avocado are all excellent sources. Adding them to your baby’s food not only helps their development, but it also makes real food taste great. I learned a LOT about feeding babies from this awesome book (buy it, read it, earmark it, and read it again!)
Bigger kids need real food too though it might take a bit more effort on your part to get them on board. If you are looking to introduce real food to your kids in 2021, finding healthy snacks for kids is a great place to start. If your children aren’t used to a regular diet of real foods, they may turn their noses up. Even my kids, who are used to healthy foods, want pizza now and then. It’s important to keep things in perspective and make changes slowly over time. You’ll be better able to keep the new year’s resolution to offer healthy food for kids when you don’t overwhelm them or yourself. Here are some of the tips I have as a nurse and mom that will help-
Just like the Boy Scout motto says, “Being prepared makes all the difference.” Real food for kids takes time to make. Don’t wait until your kids are starving to make their meals. Instead, plan ahead by pre-chopping and storing healthy choices for them to grab. You can also make eating real food simple by using leftovers from previous meals. Keep real foods prepped to be quickly reheated and served. You can make rice, beans, meats, and other foods ahead of time and simply reheat them when it’s time to eat.
Set Small But Realistic Goals
Most resolutions fail because they are not defined and aren’t realistic. You can help your kids learn to love real food by setting small but realistic goals. You don’t have to clear your pantry of every food violation out there. Encourage your kids to choose one healthy, whole food item to add to their meal. Focus on positive reinforcement when they make great choices for their health. As they become more comfortable with healthy food choices, you can set new goals throughout the year.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Narrowing down the available options for eating real food can help you succeed with your new year’s resolution. Set yourself up for success by involving your kids in the process. Ask them what foods they want to try. Take your kids to the farmer’s market. Find fun recipes to make together. Make learning to love real food part educational and part entertaining, and your kids will adapt easier.
Also keep your pantry stocked for success. But do not allow them to free range in the snack cabinet all day or they will not have room for supper. We order our snacks from Thrive Market because they have a really great healthy selection! I let the kids help choose what we order, and when the snacks arrive the kids are told that these are treats, not something to eat all day long! We also bring these snacks along when traveling so we don’t cave and buy junk when out and about. Check out their selection HERE
Helping Picky Eaters Enjoy Real Rood
Picky eaters are tough—I’ve got one of my own. Thankfully there are things you can do to help picky eaters enjoy real food. The key is to not make a big deal of it. Your consistency in how you handle the situation will make the biggest impact. Try these tips-
Offer Something They Love at Every Meal
Picky eaters do eat, just not the volume or enough of the foods we want them to. Offer a food item that they enjoy at every meal. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Keep offering additional foods alongside their tried-and-true favorite and encourage them to keep trying. It can take multiple times for them to consider trying something new.
Be a Consistent Chef
It can feel horrible when your child won’t eat healthy foods. Some parents make the mistake of becoming a short-order cook trying to appease a picky eater. Be consistent with your stand at mealtime. Don’t cave in and make an unhealthy meal for a child who refuses to eat. If you do, they will push you each time. Even if your child eats bananas and yogurt every meal for a week, that’s still better than nuggets and French fries. Stick to your meal plan and don’t give in. When your child knows you’re going to stick by your guns, they will adapt.
We also pick favorites and rotate through them regularly. Here are some of our favorites: tacos, chicken wild rice soup, gluten-free instant pot mac and cheese, chili, instant pot stroganoff meatballs, and cheeseburger soup…and we are always adding more to the list!
I am excited for you to crush your 2021 resolution to help your kids eat real food! One of the ways I can help is by offering more food advice from a nurse and sharing recipes my kids’ love, including healthy snacks for kids. Be sure to try real food recipes kids love or my Feed the Monster Cookies.