It’s been 9 years already! I can’t believe how much my girls have grown. From helpless, angelic little loaves they’ve become creative, inquisitive and somewhat responsible young girls. I say somewhat because at 9 years they still need quite a bit of my motherly guidance. The fact that they are cleaning up after themselves and do age-appropriate chores is such a relief and joy. (Don’t get me wrong, they somethings are “too busy” to clean when I ask, but for the most part, I’d say I’m in a pretty good spot as a parent). And I’m not ashamed say, “I let them play with their food.”
The other day, I only asked for them to pick up their project scraps (newspaper, glue, paper bits, scissors, watercolor paint set) from the outside table and below it. I said not to worry, I’d take care of the rest so long as they got started with the bulk items in the cleanup. They literally picked up all the odds and ends AND took out the garden house to wash away the glue and watercolor paint from the table and the patio flooring. Much more than I expected.
What I’ve Learned (and How I put things in Perspective)
So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that this wonderful responsiveness (and attention to detail) also translates to their eating habits. They even eat their salad (and enjoy it!). Here are my Top Three Tips for raising healthy eaters:
1. Let them Play with their Food!
This is my #1 rule. Why? Because it gets them in the kitchen and it keeps them interested. If it’s a project they are participating in, they definitely want to enjoy the result – and that includes tasting the finished dish we’ve prepared*.
I start with a veggie that they like or even something unfamiliar and I let them discover what’s interesting about it. They get to handle it, smell, chop or dice, and taste when appropriate. If it’s a mango, they can simply taste right after I’ve peeled, but for something like eggplant, I’d of course wait till it’s been cooked and cool enough….
Let’s take a break so see another way they Play (with food) – It’s Called: “Steal Mommy’s Salad” (and eat it before she returns):
Now back to the article:
….Now this isn’t restricted to fruits or veggies. Heck, they help me make many things from cookies / brownies to guacamole. And they’ve even come up with combos on their own. (I’m not a “sugar phobe”, although I monitor my intake and generally consume very little in terms of highly processed packaged foods.) So I let them enjoy treats in the house so long as we make them.
Their latest obsession was homemade popsicles. Although they are made with juice, I know this is a treat so I’m not worried. And besides it’s been so hot and I’d rather them eat a treat that I know exactly what is in it, than some overly processed candy bar or junky snack chips. Their strawberry lemonade popsicles were their combo of lemonade and fresh, finely chopped strawberries. They came up with a Coco Loco treat by mixing in my Cocoa/Maco powder (no sugar added) with organic soy milk and my PaleoPro Sweet Potato Recovery Protein Powder. And they continue to make new, fun combos experimenting with what we have on hand, including light canned peaches, frozen Wild blueberries and whatever they think will make something yummy.
And now they build their own parfaits, mix up their own breakfast cereal combinations and ask me to let them help me prepare some dishes.
2. Enjoy Good Food, They Will Too (eventually)
In other words, lead by example. I rarely asked my kids to take at least 3 bites of salad (nor do I bribe them with dessert). But they see me daily enjoying my veggies (often a mixed greens salad, but I do enjoy a variety of veggies, leafy greens or not). They always have the opportunity to pick from my plate (so they can taste) and there’s always plenty of what I’m eating available. If they don’t eat it (or leave some leftover), it becomes my lunch the next day.
*We made this smoothie the other day
with soy milk, half a frozen banana,
a scoop of PaleoPro Greens Powder and
PaleoPro Recovery Powder (made with sweet potato)
and they’ve been asking for this smoothie
again and again!!
3. Let them Eat Cake (say what?!)
Now stay with me. This isn’t completely off base. Restricting foods can actually lead to a poor relationship with food; and can backfire! This is a true story:
My sister used to babysit a grade-schooler who was dropped off at our house after school. Her mom was a strict vegetarian, and if I didn’t know any better I’d say Orthorexic (so thin and overly obsessed with eating healthy). She’d never let her daughter even taste a cookie, enjoy a bite of cake or anything high in sugar. So what happened? This young girl raided our cabinets for DingDongs, Stella Dora cookies and everything she could find to satisfy her desire for sweets. Poor girl was so restricted, the denial made her want sweets all the more!
Funny thing is that my girls are NOT what I’d consider “sweet tooths”. Once a week I would take them for an ice cream treat at our favorite Ice cream shop Van Leeuwen’s on the way home from school. They would NOT even sample ice cream until they were completely finished with their homework. And sometimes they simply wanted me to buy a pint of their favorite flavor and save it for later. Don’t get me wrong, they enjoy ice-cream and cake when they’re in the mood for it (say at a birthday party), but simply walking by a bakery, doesn’t tempt them in the least.
So that’s what I do. What are your strategies? Do your kids “play with their food”?