How to Get Kids to Eat Healthy

SONY DSCAbout a week ago, I mentioned collaborating with Greyson on an article about getting kiddos to eat healthfully–here it is.

*Disclaimer*–I do not have it “all together” in terms of child nutrition. I simply  have a passion for nourishing our little guy to the best of my ability. Greyson enjoys most fruits, vegetables, seeds, whole grains, beans, and lean proteins. I am aware that this can be a struggle for lots of parents and kids. I just want to share what has been working for us, so far.

**Another disclaimer**–Greyson is 18 months old and has, since birth, not been given the option to eat junk food and/or processed meal foods with unpronounceable ingredients, freely. He does eat some, but not everyday or even every week. If you have an older child, implementing some of the strategies mentioned in this article may be more difficult.SONY DSC

1. I don’t make Greyson separate dinners from Grey and I. He eats and likes whatever we eat, because like mentioned above, that has been his only option. Sometimes he isn’t in the mood to have what we are having for dinner, he would prefer an applesauce or slice of bread. That’s okay, but we don’t allow it. What’s for dinner is what’s for dinner….and that’s that.

However, I have noticed that Greyson does consistently pull broccoli out of his mouth (since he was tiny) if it is just given to him steamed, but he eats it in casseroles, or stir-fry. Because I know this about him, I don’t purposefully prepare broccoli in a way that bothers him. If he eats the majority of whole foods, other green vegetables, and even broccoli if it is cooked a certain way, he doesn’t have to eat it steamed. We all have likes and dislikes. But if he refuses to try something new or not eat something that I know he usually eats at dinner time, just because he “doesn’t feel like eating it”–tough beans. Again I say: what’s for dinner is what’s for dinner. Final answer.SONY DSC

2.  As long as Greyson is young enough to not know what he is missing (cupcake at a kid’s birthday party) we don’t offer him sweets. Grey and I both feel that giving sweets this early regularly is only training his little taste buds to want them (Greyson goes to a lot of kid birthday parties). Of course, when he is old enough to realize that everyone else is getting a cupcake at a birthday party, we feel one cupcake (with a lesson of moderation!) isn’t going to throw all of his other healthy eating habits out the window. When he is old enough to make his own decisions about food, I anticipate him making some less than healthy choices at friends houses, movie theaters, etc. That is his choice, and prayerfully the healthy eating foundation we have laid for him will circle back when he has matured.

Greyson’s First Birthday Party.

3. We’re not total sticklers. Moderation is a major theme in our home, and I think that allowing your kiddos to have pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving and apple pie on Fourth of July is a great opportunity to teach them that treats should be enjoyed, and that they are enjoyed even more when not eaten everyday. Though cakes, desserts, heavy foods with gravies, buttered rolls, etc are not healthy in of themselves. They are part of our culture. At weddings we eat cake, on Thanksgiving we eat too much, and on Christmas we eat peppermint sticks. SONY DSC

To deny your children the experience of eating a s’more around a campfire, is to me, denying them a part of our culture. The problem is when the cupboards in our homes are constantly stocked with the stuff that our bodies just don’t need, and children have free access. When kids no longer enjoy the taste of fruit because they are used to the super sweet taste found in candy, a bad habit has been formed.

Christmas Cookie Decorating Party 2014
Christmas Cookie Decorating Party 2014

4. Once Greyson started solids, we purposefully tried to give him every kind of fruit and vegetable we could think of to expose him to different tastes and textures early on. There will be things he doesn’t naturally care for (broccoli), but because he hasn’t had exposure to junk food as well, he naturally likes most whole foods….especially fruit and sweet peas!SONY DSC

5. Garden! I imagine this will be even more effective when Greyson gets a little older, when he can understand the concept of growing and harvesting his own food. Now, he loves to run out to the garden in the summertime, to pick tomatoes and strawberries off of the vine. He picks and smells the herbs I have sitting on our front porch, and he loves to help me out there. I don’t know this from experience yet, but I think kids would be more willing to try things they spent months taking care of. There is ownership and pride in that…not to mention deliciousness. 😉SONY DSCSONY DSC

6. Finally, the most important (and most difficult) step in motivating Greyson to eat how we wish him to, is we try to eat that way ourselves. We know it is so important for us to set the example, and to eat regular well-balanced meals. How unfair would it be for us to eat macaroni and cheese or dessert in front of Greyson, and not allow him to have some as well? It’s not fair or a good example, so we just don’t do it.

First Fancy Dinner.
First Fancy Dinner.

I’ve included a list of Greyson’s favorite snacks, treats, and disliked food here:

Some of Greyson’s favorite snacks/meals:

  • Shelled Peas
  • Cut Green Beans
  • Unsweetened Applesauce
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • eggs
  • oatmeal with cinnamon
  • quinoa & beans
  • unsweetened apple banana muffins (*I’ll be sharing the recipe soon!)
  • Whole-Wheat Pancakes
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Raw sliced bell pepper
  • Onions!
  • Smoothies (ex: mango, strawberry, banana, kale, with flax)
  • fruit & veggie baby food in the pouch
  • all types of berries
  • cooked carrots
  • whole wheat sliced bread

For a treat or on special occasion days, he enjoys:

  • Cheese
  • Smoothies made with vanilla almond milk
  • We’re waiting for Valentine’s Day to give him his first PB&J! **so excited!**
  • So far, in the dessert section Greyson has had berry pie, pumpkin pie, and apple pie…he obviously loved them all.SONY DSC

Foods he doesn’t seem to care for:

  • broccoli (unless it is in something ie: soup, casserole, or stir-fry)
  • plain flour tortillas

Blessings to you and your littles,

Love Grey & Brianna


2 thoughts on “How to Get Kids to Eat Healthy

  1. This is great! We did the same thing with our kids! It does get harder once you have introduced sweets, so the longer you can wait the better.

    P.S. I am one of those stickler parents that do not let my kids eat smores. Its super hard to find organic pork free marshmallows.

    1. Thanks Rosie! I know it’s going to get trickier as he gets older…but I’m up for the challenge!!! 🙂 Hmmmm….I guess we’ll have to figure out how to make some organic pork free marshmallows. 😉

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