Transitioning Your Kids Nutrition
Even though I am no longer in school…this time of year gets me fired up!
School is around the corner, which means one thing: Getting prepped.
I was one of “those” kids who loved school supply shopping, picking out the best in crayons, scissors, glue and lunch boxes.
It was all about the lunchbox!
Cinderealla, Belle, Little Mermaid…I think I had all the Disney princesses.
And it wasn’t just about what was on the outside of the lunchbox, but the inside as well:
Lunchables, Capri Suns, Pringles, Fruit by the Foot and Dunk-a-roos (they still exist!) were what the cool kids brought in their lunch…and I was one of them.
Fast-forward 20 years later, and the “cool” kids we typically discover weren’t as cool as we thought, right?
Just like the popular kids who end up working for the “nerds” or “book worms”, the “cool kid” lunchbox items are not all they were cracked up to be now.
The good news?
Knowledge is power, and now, that we know Lunchables aren’t necessarily the most nutritious thing to feed our kids…we can “pay it forward” by helping them learn how to nourish their bodies for a life time.
Think: REAL FOOD.
Don’t think it’s possible? “My kids will never eat real food!” you say.
Here are some practical tips for transforming your kids’ nutrition, healing their guts and helping you (and them) stress LESS in the kitchen.
1. Baby Steps. The “cold turkey” approach to eating more real foods is not the optimal way to make changes in your family’s nutrition. A sudden switch from the regular frozen pizza and daily Cinnamon Toast Crunch to chicken and broccoli and veggie omelets is unlikely to go over well. Instead, ease the kids into their new eating patterns. Some ideas:
• Cut out gluten at one meal, or even just one gluten-containing food (such as adding eggs and bacon for breakfast over Coco Puffs).
• Gradually replace ‘kid-food’ snacks with real food, such as:
– Processed string cheese → Full-fat, grass-fed cheese
– Jiffy peanut butter → Almond butter
– Goldfish and graham crackers → Plantain chips, Livin’ spoonful seed crackers and Jackson’s Honest sweet potato chips
– Fruit roll-ups and fruit snacks → Real fruit or natural, no sugar-added fruit leather
– Granola bars → Bulletproof Collagen bars, RX bars, Thunderbird bars, or Paleonola (a grain-free granola, sold at Whole Foods or online)
2. Out of Sight, Out of Mind. Don’t tempt yourself or the kids with foods that you are trying to get away from. Sure, you cannot always control what happens out of the house, but you are the primary food provider and CAN control what comes in. Throw out the added sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and processed snacks. There are STILL healthy kid-friendly (easy) options you can keep in the pantry. It’s all about shopping smart and building your arsenal (see food list below for snack and meal replacement ideas).
3. Involve the Kids. Who doesn’t like autonomy? Bring the kids in on the fun and healthy lifestyle changes you are making.
• Set goals as a family for healthy eating
• Let them help you make the grocery list
• Give them a choice between two healthy dishes you want to prepare,
• Recruit their helping hands in the kitchen
• Give them choices in the healthy foods you are putting in their lunchboxes
The more they feel like they have a say (if they are old enough of course), the more they will “buy in” to the process.
4. Teach Them. You are the primary role model and educator in your child’s life when it comes to nutrition. Chances are, they are not being taught much n school. You lead by example by eating balanced yourself and nourishing YOUR body with real, whole foods, and your kids will notice. Also, don’t be afraid to explain to them why we need certain foods. It may seem like your lessons fall on deaf ears, but kids are like sponges (and you never know what will really stick). Some examples:
• Spinach is a SUPER FOOD that makes us strong! (especially our bones!)
• Protein helps us keep fuller between meals and also helps us build healthy muscles
• Avocados, grass-fed butter, coconut oil and nuts and seeds are all types of healthy fats our brains need to think SMARTER
• Sugar makes us get tired, cranky, crabby and not think clearly
• Water helps our tummies feel good (it helps with digesting our food)
Interject these little lessons throughout the day. Need more education yourself? We can never stop learning! Read: It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig for the inside scoop on real food.
5. Play Ball! Meal times and food CAN be fun. Some ideas for bringing fun back to the kitchen?
• Make a game, or contest, out of healthy eating as a family. Set goals together, or make a star chart for each family member to star the number of fruits and veggies they get each day.
• Play pretend restaurant—let the kids be the waiters, take orders—based on a couple healthy options you’ve made
• Let the kids put on a chef hat and help you in the kitchen as a “chef”, or put on a labcoat and help you as a scientist
6. Turn on the Tube. Kids love TV. Watch a documentary together about food (great for older kids) and then lead a discussion around their thoughts and what they learned. Check out:
• Fed Up
• Food Inc.
Reading books are also great at bedtime:
• Why Should I Eat Well? By Claire Llewelly
• How Did That Get In My Lunchbox?: The Story of Food by Chris Butterworth
• The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman
• Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss
7. Make it Pretty. Kids love cute and fun. Make meals fun by the way you present the food on the plate:
• Broccoli is just boring broccoli, unless it becomes ‘trees in the forest’, (perhaps sprinkled with some walnuts around them and drizzled with a little olive oil—nuts fell from the trees?).
• Bell-peppers or tomatoes become ‘boats’ for chicken or tuna salad.
• Cut shapes in deli meats with cookie cutters.
• Sprinkle ‘ants’ (raisins) celery sticks spread with almond butter.
You get the picture.
8. Flavor Water. Even you get bored with water sometimes. Spritz water with citrus or other fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, strawberries, etc. Coconut water (no added sugars) is also another great option. Avoid artificial sweeteners or sugary juice boxes. Or try this homemade electrolyte drink:
• 4 cups of liquid base (choose: green tea, herbal teas, coconut water, plain water, etc.)
• ¼ tsp. sea salt
• 1 teaspoon Natural Calm (magnesium drink)
• 1 Tbsp sweetener (optional)- can use honey, stevia, etc.
• Brew tea if using or slightly warm base liquid
• Add sea salt and calcium magnesium to mix.
• Add juice and sweetener if using and mix or shake well.
• Cool and store in fridge for up to 4 days
9. Recipe Makeover. For practically every single food your kid likes, there IS a healthier substitute that tastes even better (especially when your own hands make it). Google can become your best friend here to find recipes and substitutions for anything! (See list at end of healthy substitutes and ideas for kid standbys).
10. Don’t Stress. The more you stress over what they eat, the more your kids will pick up on it—and sometimes food becomes more of a control issue then. Your kids will eat. And, as you provide wholesome real options, they are going to begin to regulate their bodies, and rewire their brains to thrive upon the real foods their bodies were meant to live on all along (and grow from). Bonus: By removing the gut irritants like grains, dairy, and sugar, your child is ALSO going to be less stressed! Sugars, hydrogenated oils, poor balance and “kid foods” make us MORE stressed and anxious. When we begin adding in proteins, fats, healthy carbs, and water, our bodies (and our guts) naturally become less stressed (which greatly impacts our brains, behavior and anxiety in the first place).
11. No “Good” or “Bad” Foods. Instead of labeling foods with morals, speak to foods in terms of how they make us feel and impact our health, such as: “Superhero” or “energy boosting” foods, “true beauty foods”, and “Kick-butt soccer foods.” If your kid is into superheroes, princesses, certain movie characters or Disney childhood stars, use these “celebrity” and cartoon idols as role models for your kids: “What do you think Superman would eat for more power?!” Or, “How do you think Selena Gomez has energy to perform on stage, or keep her skin clear?” Healthy foods are part of that equation! In addition, instead of using the terms “good choices” or “bad choices”—ask your kids what they think the “better choice” is for them and their body (or you and your body—let them guide and educate YOU too).
12. In a Pinch. Keep real (easy) foods on hand at all times for those in-a-pinch (no-time-to-cook moments). Frozen turkey burgers and chicken sausage (Applegate Farms), Mikey’s Muffins (coconut flour English muffins), frozen PaleoMD or Cappellos’ pizzas, canned tuna, salmon or chicken, nitrate-free deli meats, pasture-raised eggs and nitrate-free bacon, almond butter or cashew butter, frozen berries, pureWOD protein powders. You can also consider freezing pre-made meals or meal deliveries (Studio Kitchen in Austin delivers frozen pre-made clean foods that are easily made in 20-30 minutes for example).
13. The “17 Rule.” Don’t give up if they turn up their noses after the first try. It can take up to 17 times of food exposure before our taste buds change. Try multiple variations of chicken, salmon, spinach, sweet potatoes (fries, mash, hash, “buns”), steak, broccoli, squash, avocados, etc. Make a pact with kids—or give them an option—to try sliced avocado or guacamole, for instance; grilled salmon or salmon burgers; broccoli with real grass-fed cheese melted on top or drizzled with melted coconut butter; ground turkey or chicken ‘taco’ meat in your Siete tortillas or lettuce wrap. Give them options within the exposures you create, and they will feel like they at least get more say and choice in trying new things. Heck, even ask them to pick from a great big list one food that they would LIKE to try themselves (instead of you telling them).
14. Recognize Nutrient Deficiencies AND Intolerances. Ironically, we often CRAVE foods we are intolerant too or that feed the bad bacteria in our guts (like sugar or processed foods). In addition, the chemicals and additives in many “kid-friendly” foods are warping their little brains to think they like foods (these chemicals are addicting). The more they steer clear of fake foods, the more their brains and bodies will begin to re-wire to crave and like real foods.
15. 80/20. Perfection does NOT (and should not) exist. 80% of the time—the foods you serve and keep in the house—should be real, clean whole foods. The other 20% of the time? Kids will be kids…and that is OK.
Find Support. Don’t go it alone. Sometimes bringing in an outside perspective can help with easing the tension between family ties. Thrive works with individuals and families around the globe, with the mission of empowering you to change your body, change your mind, change your life. I am excited to announce the launch of my 28-day Eat-Real-Food program, called Family Fuel—available for both individuals, as well as a family version.
Over the course of 28 days, you will be guided in helping your family build a solid foundation of sustainable nutrition habits together (kids and all). This program is available in both in-person and distance formats and includes:
• Fuel Nutrition Guide & Manual—all you need to know about “real food” and making healthy eating easy and sustainable
• 28 Days of Meal Templates and Meal Ideas
• Recipe Book (More than 100 easy, delicious recipes made in 20-minutes or less. Kid tasted and approved!)
• Optional 1:1 sessions, booked with Dr. Lauryn (grocery store tour, pantry sweep, simple meal prep sessions, individualized nutrient deficiency and health evaluation)
• Improve gut health, energy levels, healthy weight management, blood sugar balance, stress and more
• Less stress in the kitchen
• Sustainability for healthy eating post-program (no diets here)
Interested? Send me an email at [email protected] for more information or to get started.
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