Healthy Eating for Kids
Slowly but surely — luckily — my boys are starting to make good food decisions.
Just about anyone who is a parent will agree that parenting is the hardest, however rewarding, job in the world. When your kids are first born you wonder if you will ever sleep again. When they start talking you wonder if you will ever experience quiet again. And soon enough you wonder if the answer to every question will always be ”no.”
BUT my two boys are the best reason to have dark circles under my eyes. And they’ve turned me into the skilled multi-tasker that I am today.
I have a little guy who is almost 5 and a 2-year-old. When they were babies it was perfect because they couldn’t argue with me over what I was feeding them. Of course they would spit out the green beans, or fake-sneeze them back at me, but at least I had total control as to which healthy foods they were eating/spitting/fake-sneezing.
Now the boys can talk, argue, barter, and they do it with the skill of an adult. By the time we sit down to dinner, I am too tired to argue. Slowly but surely — luckily — my boys are starting to make good food decisions.
As a foodie, a chef, and a mom, here are a few healthy tips that I can offer.
Healthy Eating for Kids
- When it comes to teaching kids healthy eating habits, food shouldn’t be fast. To really appreciate food you need to understand all that it takes for it to get to your plate. I try to take the boys to as many farmers; markets as possible, and especially during the summer. I get them involved in the kitchen and have learned to just let it go, knowing full well that the kitchen will soon be a mess and that they themselves will need to be hosed down at the end. But I think it is so rewarding to teach the boys how to make homemade pizza dough, how to crack an egg, even how to pick out produce. And, when we do finally get around to eating, we always sit down together at the dinner table and take our sweet time. (Of course my 5-year-old takes such a long time that it is pitch black outside by the time that dinner is over, but at least I know everything that happened during his day.)
- Add an element of fun to food and kids will pay attention in a whole new way. Yes, I take food very seriously. I want to know every ingredient, cooking method, and spice that touches my plate, but that is because food is what I love. When it comes to feeding kids, I try to make it fun for them too. We make individual pizzas using fresh fruits and vegetables and shape the vegetables into rocket ships, faces, rainbows… We serve breakfast sausage on lollipop sticks. I let my boys stir the cookie dough with their (washed) hands. And every once in a while when my boys want bananas, I’ll get out my blow torch out and a little sugar because there’s nothing better than a banana bruleed. Memories like these are my favorites from my own childhood; I hope they will be forever-memories for my boys too. They love helping me in the kitchen so onward we will go.
- Grocery shop with purpose. If you only fill your house with healthy food options, you will only eat healthy foods (imagine that). Chocolate milk is for celebratory days. Cookies* are saved for treats. I try to introduce a new and healthy food to the boys every time we go to the grocery. For snacks right now they love Greek yogurt. I also frequently freeze grapes and treat them as a “very special treat”. For lunch we dress up a turkey sandwich by serving hot and with a slice of cheese. *Side note: the only “bad-for-you” foods we have in our house are ingredients. If my family wants cookies, we have to make them ourselves.
I do believe that the message, in the end, is to have fun with food — at any age. “Healthy” is effortless when food is creative, colorful, and…melted with a blow torch.
Caitlin Steininger – Partner