Parents and guardians, it’s up to you. We all want the best for our kids. We have these little humans that depend on us to give them what they need to develop and grow into a healthy human being.
If you are concerned for your child’s health in some way or another, always consider food. You have complete control in the early years even if it doesn’t feel that way. Sure, when they are teenagers, they will do what they want. But at home, you can give them the healthy start they need.
I’m not here to tell you what to do and what not to do because that’s your decision. Instead you’ll find out why it’s important what your kids eat and some tips and tricks that I can share from my own kids (age 1 and 3). I’m not going to go through what amounts of things your kids need because that’s too much to take on. Let’s just focus on offering nutritious foods.
Keep in mind, we should never restrict our kids in ways that are shameful or angry or relate food consumption with weight or looks. We eat foods to nourish and get stronger and healthier to take on the world.
The idea is to offer good things and give them a good start, not to restrict and deny the enjoyment of childhood.
Why It’s Important What Your Kids Eat
To keep it simple. this is what could happen when kids aren’t fed well:
- Sick often
- Skin issues like eczema
- Hyperactive more than normal
- Tired all the time
- Problems with digestion
- Mind fogginess
- Energy crashes
- Excessive tantrums
Why wouldn’t we all immediately consider what we put into our bodies affects how we feel and act? It’s literally the only thing that helps our bodies run. Food. If you put the wrong food in, it’s not going to work right.
There is no one single answer as to why it’s important. It just is SO important. Your kids (and you) will benefit or be slowed down from the food that goes into the body.
This is Too Complicated!
Yes, the effects of food on the body are complicated. We know produce and real food are good. We know sugar is not good. Real food is the answer.
- Include one real food item at a meal you know they like so there isn’t a hungry child
- Replace sugary cereal at breakfast with eggs or oatmeal
- Let kids help prepare food (safely). We love our kitchen helper.
- Let them choose (maybe give two healthy options)
- Cook meals instead of eating out (learn if you don’t know how)
- Make healthier versions of their favorites – A Google search can always find you what you’re looking for
- Try not to reward with cookies, cake, or ice cream. Maybe reward with a fun outing or a new toy.
- Take them shopping to pick out foods.
Here are some categories of ideas for kids.
Kids love these naturally. Bland and easy to consume and cheap. We try to avoid too much of these and use homemade rather than processed products. They tend to not have as many nutrients as other food groups. Grains can help with some vitamins and also fiber to help digestion. It’s a quicker source of energy and it depends on the type of grain consumed.
- I make homemade sourdough bread for a peanut butter sandwich or toast.
- Better versions of bread type products like Angelic bakehouse, which I find in my local grocery.
- Bean noodles like Banza
- Rice occasionally
- Homemade muffins, breakfast cookies. All without added sugar or using applesauce or bananas to sweeten. Try these!
- Oatmeal. They love these banana oatmeal pancakes without the syrup in it and cooked blueberries on top (no sugar here!)
- Crackers – we like Simple Mills from Costco though they are grain free
- Cereal – Bean cereal Love Grown over here. It’s generally full of sugar so we avoid most.
Aim to make veggies a part of every meal. This is where a lot of the important nutrients come from to help kids stay healthy and avoid sickness.
- Steamed broccoli or carrots
- Spinach and greens are hard to eat at young ages, so blend into smoothies and muffins like these, or cook with scrambled eggs
- Butternut squash, zucchini, spaghetti squash for noodles
- Raw carrots, broccoli, peppers (older kids)
- Sweet potato hash browns or roasted are a favorite
- Regular potatoes any which way
- Ready to eat beets
- Cauliflower rice
- I wrote a lot about hiding veggies here and that would be helpful in this section.
- For some reason, canned pumpkin is a favorite
Always a favorite. If eating the whole fruit, we can get the fiber for good digestion and nutrients as well to stay healthy. We don’t do juice. Juice is mostly sugar and lacks nutrients except sometimes vitamin C, which is super easy to get from a whole fruit and not usually a deficit.
- Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries
- Apples – cooked for little ones
- Avoid canned fruits if possible
Proteins & Fats
Protein is important for growth. My daughter always says, “I’m almost getting bigger,” whenever we tell her to eat some pieces of meat.
Fats are important to keep energy and moods stable, as well as for kid’s brain health. There are many important nutrients that need fat for absorption. Avoid fried foods as those don’t help in this case. Use healthy fats like the ones listed below.
- Grass fed beef sticks
- Good sources of meats and fish
- Butter – on toast and mixed in steamed vegetables
- Milk (whole, coconut, almond)
- Yogurts – they like plain Greek yogurt. If not, add a fresh fruit or try something like this.
- Nuts, if older. Cashews are a favorite.
- Peanut butter – sandwich, on bananas or apples
It is worth mentioning as we should know that kids do not need to consume their calories in drinks without nutritional value.
- Coconut Water if especially warm out for electrolytes
Simple things like substituting maple syrup and less of it for white sugar are helpful. I like to use coconut milk because it’s sweeter and doesn’t need as much sugar added.
- A good vitamin. We like these from Garden of Life.
- Probiotics. We like Love Bugs.
- Fermented foods like fresh pickles or kefir for gut health
Bottom Line: A variety of real foods.
But It’s Expensive!
I surely don’t have much money in a one income family, but we put our kid’s and our health first. Other things can wait. Find a way to cut in other areas if you need. There are also cheap healthy foods out there. It doesn’t have to be organic. It just has to be real food. Don’t get caught up in organic. We cannot afford it all either, so I choose to buy only organic meats and grains if anything. That’s the best we can do and that’s okay.
Start With Babies
Babies do not know any better and develop a palate early on for whatever they are fed. You should focus on healthy foods at this time. That includes plenty of vegetables and healthy fats, which are often overlooked, and a variety of tastes and textures. This will set them up for a healthy road ahead.
My favorite go to during this time, as my son doesn’t have many teeth to chew, is pouches that have good ingredients. Serenity Kids is the best out there in terms of nutritious pouches. Of course it’s going to cost more, but it’s worth every bit. Once Upon A Farm is also good, but I prefer to have some fat and protein in every pouch.
But My Kids Are So Picky!
If they are picky, continue to try and not give in. There are many methods to choose from when trying to get a picky kid to eat. I have my kids sit and at least try everything. If they would like more of something else they do like on their plate, then they can ask, “Please may I have more of … ?”
If the kids are at your feet while trying to cook dinner all hungry (as kids do), offer them veggies to munch on while they wait if they’re that hungry. They are more likely to eat things they don’t like when they’re super hungry!
Try a variety of foods. Hiding food inside other food is a great option to gain nutrition. It doesn’t help them like it necessarily, but at least they will get some nutrition. Try smoothies with hidden veggies. Just do your best and try again another time.
Another option is to try to focus on what they do like that’s good for them. If they really won’t eat broccoli but will eat carrots or asparagus, not a big deal. They can eat whatever veggies they like most.
In my case, my daughter only likes raw veggies and not so much cooked ones. She can have the raw ones as much as she wants!
At dinner time, try to choose one food you know they will eat with the others that they may not. I have to plan my meals around what the kids will be able to chew well and one thing they probably will like. Then at least they won’t be starving and may be more willing to try something new.
But My Life is So Busy!
There’s many healthier options that are on the go. Putting in the effort is what it comes down to. Health and nutritious food should be the top priority for kids, and there is always a way to do it. What can you do? Make one day a day where everything is prepped or make things ahead of time. Cut up veggies or fruits ahead of time. Use crock pot meals. Learn to cook if you don’t know how. Do that for your kids. There are so many easy recipes out there using real food.
But They Are Being Deprived!
No. This is simply not the case. The kid who eats the sugary foods all day is deprived from proper brain function and development. Though if your kid is at a birthday party, OF COURSE they can eat the cake and pizza. We are not trying to restrict here, but offer good things most of the time.
But We Need To Live!
Of course! We are going to get ice cream and cheeseburgers sometimes. Sure, that is just fine. We just want to avoid the regular habit of eating poorly.
Good Resources for Healthy Kids
I love love this instagram account for nutrition for toddlers: https://www.instagram.com/mamaknows_nutrition/?hl=en
Fresh Tip: Always make healthy real food a priority for your children. It’s up to us.