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 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
These things may be related to poor nutrition:
- Sick often
- Skin issues like eczema
- Hyperactive more than normal
- Tired all the time
- Problems with digestion
- Mind fogginess
- Energy crashes
- Excessive tantrums
“This is Too Complicated! They’re so picky!“
Yes, the effects of food on the body are complicated. We know produce and real food are good. We know excessive sugar is not great. Real food is the answer.
- Include one real food item at a meal you know they like
- Replace sugary cereal at breakfast with eggs or oatmeal or cereal with less sugar
- Let kids help prepare food to see what goes into it (safely).
- Let them choose what to eat (give two healthy options)
- Cook meals instead of eating out (learn for your kids)
- 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. Grains contain vitamins and also fiber to help digestion.
- Better versions of bread type products like Angelic bakehouse, which I find in my local grocery.
- Bean noodles like Banza
- Brown rice
- Homemade muffins, breakfast cookies. All without added sugar or using applesauce or bananas to sweeten. Try these!
- Oatmeal pancakes and cooked fruit on top
- Whole grain crackers without added preservatives
- Low sugar cereals
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.
- Steamed or raw 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.
- 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. Try not to be swayed to think fruit snacks and juice are fruit. Juice is mostly sugar and lacks nutrients except sometimes vitamin C.
- Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries
- Apples – cooked for little ones
- Dried fruits like raisins
- Canned fruit if needed
- Frozen fruit in a smoothie or to snack on
Proteins & Fats
Protein is important for growth. 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.
- Nut 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.
- Water (add some berries or lemon)
- Smoothies without added sugar
Simple things like substituting maple syrup and less of it for white sugar are helpful.
- 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!
Try to put health first. Food doesn’t have to be organic. It just has to be real food. Do your best to get what you can. How to Eat Healthy on A Budget
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.
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 at least try everything but find a way for them to make that decision. “You can try if you want to.”
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.
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 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 the 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!
This is simply not the case. Kids are deprived from proper development if they are eating poor nutritional value foods. Though they will enjoy things from time to time, we don’t make a big deal out of it. But for the most part, if you can control what they eat, try to make it the best you can. Avoid singling them out if all the kids are having a cookie or making comments about what they have.
Good Resources for Healthy Kids
Fresh Tip: Always make healthy real food a priority for your children. It’s up to us.
Ashly EdmistonMay 11, 2020
This is fantastic and very informative! One thing I learned from a dietitian is when she is preparing meals or snacks, she will get her kids to help by having them cut the veggies (older kids) and make fun pictures on the plates with them. She noticed it made them more likely to eat them when they were involved in the process.
Mindy VoetMay 11, 2020
Thank you! That is very useful advice. I love having my kids “help” even when they’re not actually cutting yet.
NehaMarch 22, 2022
Very very informative. And yes I agree these packaged high in sodium foods are not meant for kids.