My children have always been what I would consider good eaters. We’ve never given them a lot of sugary treats, and from the time they started eating solid food, they have eaten the same meals that we’ve eaten. So, for the most part, this has been an easy transition for them because of that. However, there have been a few difficulties for us, worsened by the amount of junk food marketing toward kids. So, for those of you who might have a tougher road ahead, I wanted to offer some tips and encouragement.
Remember you’re doing this for them.
First and foremost, I think it helps to remember your mission. You’re doing this for them. At times, we parents are faced with the difficult task of doing things for our children that aren’t fun at the time, but are much better in the long run. This is one of those things.
You’re not only choosing to nourish your children with healthy foods instead of junk, you are teaching them the value of real food.
The patterns you create now will become lifelong habits for your children. Those habits can either be destructive habits that they will continue or have to try to break in the future or healthy ones that will help them, and the choice is yours. That’s a big responsibility, and one that we need to take more seriously.
Obviously, your children will make their own choices at some point, but bad habits are incredibly hard to break, and it’s better to help them form those good habits now.
Remember this is a season.
It will be hard at first, but the more you stick with it, the easier it will get. The first few days will be tough, but the second week will be a little easier. The next week even easier. After a month, you’re building new routines, new habits, a new normal for your family.
You can do it!
- Be patient. Completely overhauling one’s eating habits is no small thing. Depending on how much junk food and processed foods your family was accustomed to eating before, it may be very difficult. It’s probably hard for you (I know it is/was for me!), but you have the benefit of mentally preparing yourself and being the one in control. Your children are being pulled along for a ride they didn’t sign up for. You’re making a good choice for them, but it will still be tough.
- Clean out your pantry. I’ve already talked about this as a whole, but I think it’s important in helping our kids adjust as well. If those bad things aren’t in the house at all, they will get used to it more quickly.
- Be consistent. This change gets easier as you go along. If you stick with it where your kids are concerned, with will get progressively easier. However, if you give in and give in, you’ll either give up altogether, or prolong the negative effects. Stick with it, mamas.
- Give them choices. There are tons of great real food meals that you can make! No one needs to be deprived or to force your children to eat foods they don’t like. I’m not one of those short-order cooks, but I do believe in valuing my children as I would any other member of the family, so I consider their preferences when it comes to our meals. Obviously, if your kids live on chicken nuggets or fast food this may be more difficult, but try and find some common ground to work from, and let them feel like they have a little bit of control.
- Make treats. I definitely wouldn’t advise going all out with the home-made-from-scratch real-food remakes of junk food. However, it can go along way to make a few things here and there so that your kids can have some of their favorite comfort foods with real, wholesome ingredients.
- Don’t make it an issue. Just feed your kids like you always do. Address things as they come up, with specific requests, but otherwise just cook dinner and serve it without fanfare. You know you’re making changes, educate them about the changes here and there, but there is no need to belabor the details with them. Just as with yourself–focus on the things they can have.
Tomorrow I’ll be sharing even more practical tips for making the real food switch with kids, specifically how I got my kids to start eating raw vegetables.