Let's start this post with a disclaimer.I do not have kids.I know absolutely nothing about raising kids.I don't even know how to babysit.Just ask the last kid I babysat - I sent him home with a backwards diaper.
So what gives me the right to give parenting advice.Probably nothing.But I do knoware the only solution to our current epidemic of chronic disease and obesity.And as my facebook newsfeed reminds me on a daily basis, people my age are now starting families (even though I'm pretty sure we were all just 18 last year, right??).I once thought I wanted to be a pediatric dietitian, you know, before I realized children are terrifying screaming monsters.During that time, I did a decent amount of research on how to raise healthy eaters and promote a normal relationship with food.
Parents have an enormous influence over their child's eating habits, for better or for worse.Even if a parent isn't the world's healthiest eater, there are many things they can do to foster a healthy relationship with food and a willingness to experiment.Here are a few of my favorite tips.
Ellen Satter's Division Of Responsibility
is a pretty rad dietitian.Her methods are rational, outside the box, and most importantly, effective.Every new parent should read "," which teaches how to feed children, not what to feed them.One of the most helpful methods she describes is the . Parents usually fall into two categories, those who take on too much responsibility for their child's eating habits and those who give the child all the power.It's the difference between "You can't leave the table until you've eaten every last bite of green beans!" and "Oh, you'd like chicken nuggets and french fries again??No problem!"Both create the same problem - picky eaters who hate healthy foods.
In Satter's Division of Responsibility, parents are responsible for deciding what the child is fed, when they are fed and creating a pleasant feeding environment.The child is responsible for what foods they choose to eat and how much.Parents should prepare meals they enjoy, rather than catering to the child's demands, but include one or two foods the child will eat, even if it's just rice and fruit.Over time, the child will begin to show interest in new foods and eventually start eating them willingly.
Patience is important.Your child may throw an epic tantrum at mealtime and eat only bread and milk for a few days, but eventually, they will start to show interest in new foods.That is, as long as you don't give in and make chicken nuggets and french fries.It might be a difficult time, but as long as there's food on the table, your child won't starve.
You've seen the: children who eat more family meals do better academically, socially, and have lower rates of depression, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy.F are also crucial for raising healthy eaters.This is true even when the food on the table isn't the healthiest (although it's better if it is!).Children learn most of their eating behaviors through observation.The best way to teach your child these healthy eating behaviors is by practicing them yourself.But if you're eating in front of the tv, they're not going to notice you gleefully digging into a plate of Brussels sprouts.They're paying too much attention to the McFlurry commercial.
Now, I hear from my friends with kids that getting dinner on the table can be about as difficult as climbing Mount Everest blindfolded without oxygen.I completely sympathize, but family meals are so important, I feel strongly they need to be prioritized.To make family dinners more realistic, try the following tips:
- Don't prepare anything too complicated.A family meal can be as simple as abar or sandwiches and raw vegetables.If you decide to cook a more time consuming dish, keep everything else simple.For example, if preparing a soup that requires lots of vegetable chopping, just serve whole grain toast or a simple salad on the side.- Use the .I know you're up at the crack of dawn, so you might as well get dinner going.- Pick up a(of Food Network fame) cookbook.Her recipes are generally nutritious and kid friendly, but what I really like are her time saving tips, ways to do advance prep, and ideas for extending leftovers.
Kids In The Kitchen
Let your child with food preparation.They'll be likely to try new dishes if they've had a hand in making it, plus it teaches crucial life skills.Now, obviously you don't want your three-year-old wielding a Wusthof, but there are many tasks a child can help with.Washing fruits and vegetables is a good start.Measuring ingredients is a helpful task since it ties in math skills.As your child gets older, use your time together in the kitchen as a learning opportunity.For example, if you are preparing a salad, teach your child how each vegetables grows.Or if you're cooking tacos you could teach them about Mexico and foster cultural awareness.
Taste preferences are developed , even before a child is born.Babies can taste different flavors in amniotic fluid and breast milk so if you want your child to enjoy healthy foods, you need to eat healthy too!When your child starts to eat purees, use that opportunity to sneak in foods that might not be considered "kid friendly."Many parents make their own which I think is fantastic, but if that's not realistic for you, there are many that incorporate more "exotic" flavors.Whether using commercial or homemade, mix in small amounts of spices to expand their taste buds further.It goes without saying, but no hot spices...that is unless you dream of your child growing up to be a chili eating champion.
Use Favorite Foods
Your child is more likely to try a new food if paired with a food they already enjoy.For instance, if your child loves chicken noodle soup, but they've never tried kale, then add chopped kale to your usual recipe.Similarly, if your child enjoys a certain preparation, you could prepare a new ingredient in the same method.For example, eggplant parmesan instead of chicken parmesan or zucchini casserole instead of of green bean casserole.You could even use a favorite food as a garnish on something new - green beans tossed with almonds or sharp cheddar melted over roasted broccoli are good ideas.This will make a new food more familiar and the more familiar it is, the more likely your child will try it.
Lightly Disguising Foods
A few years ago, Seinfeld's wife wrote a about sneaking vegetables using purees.It included recipes for macaroni and cheese with cauliflower puree and brownies with carrot puree.Smart idea, right?I actually don't think so.When your child is eating his chicken nuggets made with spinach puree, he's not thinking "That spinach is killer!"He's thinking, "Mmm chicken nuggets!Mom said these were healthy, so I bet the ones at McDonalds are healthy too!"If he doesn't realize he's eating a vegetable, he's not going to eat it later in life when, presumably, mom isn't cooking all the meals.
Instead, lightly disguise fruits and vegetables.Chop or shred vegetables finely, so they are visible, but difficult to pick out of a dish.For example, toss shredded zucchini and peppers with whole grain , olive oil and parmesan cheese.Or you could make a with finely chopped vegetables.Today's recipe is a perfect example.Carrots and onion are shredded into kid sized mini-meatloaves.Broccoli is boiled with potatoes, then mashed together.The green color makes it fun for kids, while the parmesan and garlic adds an adult friendly flavor.
MINI ITALIAN MEATLOAF
1/4 large onion, finely chopped
1 lb lean ground beef
1/4 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large carrot, shredded
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup tomato sauce, or homemade
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.Spray a muffin tin with olive oil or line with a foil cupcake liner.
In a large bowl, combine onion, beef, bread crumbs, garlic, carrot, seasoning, salt and pepper.Stir in 1/2 cup tomato sauce.
Divide the mixture into 10 muffin tins.Top with the remaining 1/2 cup tomato sauce.Bake about 20-25 minutes until the meat is cooked through.
Sprinkle each meatloaf with parmesan cheese.Place back in the oven under the broiler to melt the cheese, about 1 minute.
BROCCOLI AND POTATO PUREE
2 medium-large russet potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks
6 cloves garlic peeled
1 head broccoli, thick stems peeled, cut into florets
1/2 cup 2% milk, plus more to thin to desired consistency
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Place the potatoes and garlic in a large saucepan.Add enough water to cover by 2 inches.Bring a boil and boil until the potatoes feel about halfway done when pierced with a fork, about 6 minutes.Add broccoli and continue to boil until both broccoli and potatoes are tender, about 6 more minutes.Drain and return to the hot pan.
Add milk, olive oil, parmesan, salt and pepper.Mash with a potato masher until mostly smooth with a few lumps.Add more milk to thin if you prefer.