How to get your kids to eat healthy food?

Dear tired, overwhelmed parents,

I know you are too tired, stressed and hungry to stand up to your kids when they pester you for junk food – after all it’s packaged so beautifully, it is so bloody tempting to take the drive thru option.  I was so surprised recently – I was busting to go to the loo. It was  11am Sunday morning and the nearest loo just had to be maccas!  I was blown away at how many families were in there eating  fries and big macs on a Sunday morning.

This is a difficult but necessary topic – it is time to be brave  and be a bit hard lined with your kids.  I understand that you have to choose your battles carefully as a parent. No one else will take responsibility for your children’s food education – well perhaps big food companies will misguide your children with the use of advertising and marketing.  May I suggest this is not what you really want if you want your children to be fit and healthy.  I am assuming that all parents want their children to grow up fit, strong, healthy, clever and free from lifestyle related illnesses.

If you are going to choose any battle to have with your kids – this should be it.  I really believe that one of the BIGGEST responsibilities we have as parents is to teach our kids about real food. There are thousands of products in the supermarket that are offering the Holy Grail – easier, quicker, tastier, cheaper – quick, fast food options packed with enough salt, sugar and fat to get you and your kids totally hooked.  These products are NOT food and they will make you and your kids FAT, SICK and will kill your taste buds quicker than you can drive through the Maccas drive through.

I get it – I am a busy, time poor parent too.  There are many times during the week when I think ‘ooh wouldn’t a take away be good’.  But on the very few occasions when I do give in, I am often disappointed with the quality and the taste. The fatty after taste or the lack of fresh real food.  Or the feeling the next day.  It is often a disappointing experience all round.

Kids Nag, I get that. Kids will happily eat food that is sweeter, saltier and fattier because it is designed to hit the sweet spot of the brain – the pleasure centre of the brain responds to sweet, salty and fatty food because the fast food giants spend millions on making sure these foods have just the right amount of salt, fat and sugar to make them really addictive.  In my journey in nutritional healing I have lots of conversations with parents trying to do the right thing by their kids. They are giving them an abundance of academic and sporting opportunities but may be neglecting the importance of fuelling their body with nutrient dense foods. 

I meet so many smart, educated parents that are taking an easy route with educating and feeding their kids.  They are tired, over worked, stressed and are not willing to say no to kids when it comes to junk food.  Eating out and getting take away several times a month is not doing yourself or your kids any favours.  Putting crisps and chocolate bars in their lunch boxes is also not helping their brain development, their behaviour or their immune system.

Five a day as a guideline for the number of fruit and veg is totally flawed – do you want your kids to grow up with average health?  Average health in this country means it is normal to be on lots of medication, type 2 diabetes, obesity are the new norm – 67 % of the population are now obese!  Heart disease and  cancer are common.  Do you really want average health for your kids?

Don’t for a second think that the big food companies care one bit about your health.  All they care about is profit.  You must take control of your children’s health.  Children are being bombarded by advertising telling them that sugar, cakes, biscuits, sweet treats are all totally normal and okay to consume every day. I am blown away every time I go to the small shop in our street – how many super cheap chocolate bars and crisps are on offer right at kid’s height.  Sugar has no health warnings yet it kills more people every year.

But how can you do this when you are so tired, and so tired of feeling tired!  I get that you don’t have much time.  But I could race you – I will prepare a quick stir veggies in a pan while you sit in your car on the way to, at the drive thru window and back.

The rise in childhood disease and obesity signals a need for a greater focus on nutrient dense food while minimising the foods that are creating health challenges in young bodies.

Where to start? How about at your local farmers market?  Where real food is locally available.  A place where you can talk to growers and discuss what is in season. You can see what real, odd shaped fruit and veg really looks like.

Here are my top tips for helping your kids get as much nutrient dense, healthy foods:

  1. Avoid the trap of filling your kids up with beige, bloat foods. Lots of bread, packaged cereals, pasta, biscuits and crisps may be quick and easy but they are not nutrient dense.  They are calories with very little nutrient value.  These foods do not satisfy the body’s need for nutrients, which means you won’t feel satisfied. You will feel undernourished and overfed. ( There is a great documentary about this
      Sweet potatoes are excellent replacement for starchy foods. They can be eaten raw as spiralized noodles and sweet potato mash is easy and delicious. Sweet potato wedges is effortless and appetizing.
  2. If you are struggling with breakfast options try a chia seed pudding, eggs and veggies in a pan or a delicious bowl of broth and veggies.  Veggies and soup for breakfast??  Try it sometime, it is quick, easy and delicious.  Click here for a delicious and easy bone broth recipe.  http://www.passion4juice.com/blog/352-discover-the-benefits-of-drinking-bone-broth-for-your-health. Click here for a chia pudding or smoothie bowl recipe.
  3. http://www.passion4juice.com/blog/370-how-to-turn-your-favourite-smoothie-into-a-delicious-smoothie-bowl
  4. Try making some delicious healthy alternatives to your favourite fast food.  Pizzas are super quick and easy to make at home and getting your kids involved with preparing their favourite ingredients is a beneficial life skill.
  5. Involving your children in food preparation has huge educational benefits. It is an incredible life skill and the younger you teach, the more it will pay off later. Get young ones practising food preparation with small knives, cutting soft ingredients like tomatoes, olives and capsicum.  Grating cheese is a job all kids love to do. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Encourage children to make their own patterns.  There are excellent benefits for social, intellectual and emotional development by working together to prepare the famiy’s food. They can also practise maths by weighing ingredients and counting portions. A subtle lesson on portion control can also be introduced.
  6. Your children will copy you.  If you are snacking on unhealthy food all day, then reaching for quick, processed, starchy carbs for dinner then you will probably be feeling tired and bloated.  If you are seeking nutrient dense, colourful fruit and veg as your main fuel then it is likely your kids will do the same.
  7. Seek out healthy alternatives for lunch box favourites. I am surprised when I hear parents telling me they have to put chips, crisps and chocolates in the lunch box because that is all the kids will eat.  Boiled eggs, veggie sticks, cherry tomatoes, delicious dips, bliss balls with cacao and healthy seeds. Mini muffins with egg, bacon and veggies are simple and mouth-watering.  They take 20- minutes to make and you can use whatever vegetables you have in the fridge.
  8. It is okay to Say No to junk food – do your kids a favour. Did you know that the number of fat cells in your body peaks once your body matures. Your body will make and destroy fat cells up until the age of maturity.  I learnt this at the Mother Nature’s Diet weekend workshop where I serve the healthy food.  If you are at 20% fat at the age of 18, the approximate age that you mature, this is the number of fat cells you will have for life. If you were a chubby kid who sat in front of the telly, didn’t exercise and ate too much junk food, you may end up with 30% body fat at the age of maturity.  It is always going to be harder for this person to lose weight because there are more fat cells to fill up with fat. This explains why some people are skinny, no matter what they eat, because at the age of maturity they had fewer fat cells.  Do your kids a massive favour and don’t let them be overweight at the age of maturity -  it will always be harder no matter how clean their diet is because they have more fat cells.  Feed your children a nutritious diet, encourage them to get outside, off the screens and getting fresh air. It will make their lives more enjoyable, they will live longer and be fitter and healthier as they get older.  The number of fat cells your child has at maturity will determine how fat your child is for the rest of their life.  You have 18 years to influence your children on how to eat, what to eat.
  9. Teach your kids where real food comes from and how vital it is to health and longevity. Say No to junk food. Teach them about portion control and demonstrate personal discipline. If you control your snacking between meals, your kids will follow.  Involving them in the buying of healthy food options at farmers markets and green grocers can be fun and educational. Discussing colour and shapes of vegetables, what is in season and where the fruit comes from can be a rewarding interaction with your kids.
  10. Don’t get sucked into all the marketing and advertising that is around you ALL THE TIME. There are thousands of items at the supermarkets, petrol stations, paper shops and corner stores masquerading as food. They have colourful, enticing packaging, misleading label’s and point of sale promotions designed to catch your eye. They are NOT REAL FOOD and should be treated with caution.  Be savvy when you are shopping, read labels. Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach. Stick to a list. If you have to have to children with you, talk them through labels, teach them about the 57 possible names for sugar. Make yourself aware of the dangers of high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated  fats and other nasty chemicals that should not be in our food chain. (That is another blog topic for another time).
  11. Avoid using chocolates and junk food as bribery for good behaviour. The occasional treat is always better if it is home made. It is made with love and complete control over the ingredients.
  12. If you do have sugar, honey and sweats in your cupboard, be sure to store them up high, out of sight.  If they are at eye level for your kids, every time they open the cupboard they will be tempted to try.
  13. Avoid the trap of several different meals to accommodate fussy eaters.  Allergies are different. But if you become a short order cook with an a la carte menu of options you are creating more work for yourself. Stand strong. We do not allow fussy eaters at our dinner table. The healthy food available is made with love to fuel growing bodies. It is not acceptable to not try all foods on the plate. If your child really doesn’t like a food, encourage them to try it, lick it, touch it, smell and at least taste it.  Teaching your kids to eat what they don’t like first.  We say ‘you don’t have to like it, but you have to taste it’.  Taste buds will change over time and children may like broccoli one day and pretend not to like it the next. This is part of their intellectual and emotional development. Praise them for all the food they eat. Keep meal times as calm as possible. Give your child choice within a couple of healthy options and keep portions sizes small.
  14. Be patient with new foods and encourage discussion around the taste, texture, colour and smell of news foods, as well as the taste. Kids that only eat a specific colour food can start by enjoying juices and smoothies in their favourite colour. This can be a great introduction to nutrient rich colourful food.  Even if beige and brown are favourite colours, a chocolate milkshake can easily become healthy and nutritious. Here is a  great recipe for a  healthy chocolate milkshake http://www.passion4juice.com/blog/363-dairy-free-sugar-free-healthy-chocolate-milkshake-the-whole-family-will-love
  15. Take your time to find the right words that your kids can understand.  I have said to my boys that too much sugar opens your gate to infection.  In other words, it lowers your immune system.  Your body can be under attack from nasty invaders and sugar opens the gate and lets them in. This is a language I know they understand because I have heard them repeating it to their friends.
  16. Give your kids a chance to try new foods and develop their taste buds. I have heard adults say ‘oh he doesn’t eat veggies’ or ‘he is a vegetarian but never eats any veggies’. Kids that come to our house for a play date will eat what is on the table because that is what there is. Parents are often surprised because there child tried something new.  My 9 year old son has decided he is pescatarian (a person who does not eat meat but does eat fish).  That means he has to eat more vegetables to get the variety of proteins and minerals he needs.
  17. You can still have fun, have a social life and enjoy festive foods. It just means you need to be a bit creative and prepare ahead. Meal planning, shopping lists and having a collection of your favourite go to healthy recipes will help.
  18. Limit the amount of snacking between meals so that kids are actually hungry when it comes to meal time.  Serve your meals at around the same time each day to get them used to meal time routine. Calmly washing hands before the meal will prepare your child for the ritual of sitting down for calm family meals. We serve our meals between 5.30pm and 6pm. Kids are usually hungry by then and it also allows plenty of time to digest food before bedtime.
  19. Respect your child’s appetite.  If they are refusing to eat everything on their plate because they are full, yet saying they are hungry half an hour later, we direct them back to their plate to finish their meal.
  20. Let kids in the kitchen.  Let them be active, make mess and learn how everything works in the kitchen – making real food makes mess. I am amazed when people are shocked that they have to chop a few veggies.  The cost of pre-packed pre chopped fruit and veg is an insult to human intelligence – but there are aisles of the stuff so people must actually think that pre-chopped radiated food is a good idea.
  21. Encourage your kids to make the juice in the morning. Most juice machines are child proof and effortless for children. Ask them to create their own tasty concoctions.  They may surprise you. There are lots of recipes on http://www.passion4juice.com/revealing-recipes
  22. Did you know we have 3 brains? Our head brain, heart brain & our gut brain! Scientists have discovered our gut brain is connected to our head brain, so what is going on in our tummies and what we eat has an impact directly on how we feel and our mood.  Building up your child’s gut health with good probiotics, fermented foods and nutrient dense fruit and veg is a brilliant way of supporting their brain and immune function.
  23. A well equipped kitchen will help you get organised, save you time and make meal planning and batch cooking more efficient. Do you have a blender, food processor, juicer,  or Thermomix?  Maybe it is time to get some fantastic kitchen tools that will make food preparation more fun and easier for the whole family. The right labour saving equipment is like having an extra pair of hands in the kitchen. You can read more about what to get here http://www.passion4juice.com/blog/256-the-difference-between-a-thermomix-and-a-blender
  24. The final tip is a tough one and maybe addresses your toughest challenge. At retreats, workshops and healthy eating demonstrations I usually meet one parent. The common complaint here is that they want to adopt a healthy eating regime for the family but as soon as they get home it will go out the window because their partner doesn’t get it.  What do you do if this is you? I am lucky that my husband is 100% supportive of a healthy eating philosophy in our house, but having the full support of your partner may not be happening.  I think you need to find some common ground.  You both share the best interests and intentions for your kids. All parents surely want their kids to be healthy, happy and live a long life.  This is the starting point. If you can both agree to this, then you can build from there. You can both agree what you think will help your kids be healthy.  Have a conversation and agree what your policy is before involving the kids. What is going to be an acceptable amount of sweets, takeaways and processed food in your household?  Is it one a month or once a week?  How often are you and your kids going to exercise?  What do you agree is a treat and how often?  If you have health and longevity as the primary goal, align your family meal plans with this goal.

I have friends that eliminated sugar from their diet but started eating more chips and savoury food instead. They had a live blood analysis and there were lots of hydrogenated fat molecules clearly visible in their blood.  The food you eat can be seen in your blood.  The food you eat definitely affects mood and behaviour. If you really have your child’s best intentions at heart then you will take this on board. Agree a plan and stay strong, stand together as parents and be brave. Saying no to junk food could be the best gift you give your children. Teaching them about personal discipline, portion control and seeing through the marketing lies will mean they are able to sift through the stories created by big food corporations. Teach them where real food comes from and how to prepare it so healthy tastes awesome.

If you need a bit more inspiration and hand holding during this process, you will be interested in our self-care kitchen workshops being held in Australia in the New Year.  You can sign up to our newsletter so we can let you know dates.  http://www.passion4juice.com will take you to the homepage where you can sign up and stay in touch.