By Larraine Roulston:
Getting your children to eat healthy meals is a challenge facing many parents. However, if the family eats nutritious foods, so will your baby. When an infant has begun taking solids, don’t be afraid to purée butternut squash and other colorful root vegetables. If serving rice baby cereal, include some puréed banana or a dash of cinnamon. Over time, keep introducing a large variety of foods and textures, not shying away from fresh herbs and spices. It makes sense not to include ingredients in recipes that your child has not yet tried. Also, certain foods such as peanut butter are best left until after your child is a year old. The book entitled French Kids Eat Everything seems to be one that has struck a new chord for many parents.
I am fortunate that my two daughters-in-law read labels for food ingredients and purchase organic produce. My teenage grandson now creates marvelous chicken noodle soups and bakes muffins from scratch. My west coast son’s two young daughters delight in eating their “funny face” dinners: two eyes would be broccoli; the white beard, mashed potatoes; the hair, spinach, etc. This daughter-in-law is second to none when it comes to a healthy diet. Both youngsters even enjoy a bowl of amaranth for breakfast. (According to Nourishing Traditions, a cookbook by Sally Fallon, these grains need to be soaked to be properly digested.)
When a child complains of hunger pangs close to mealtime, you can offer a few raw vegetables. Or you can respond, “Good! You’ll be ready to eat what’s on the table in a few minutes.” This lesson not only means that they will arrive ready to devour a wholesome meal, but also they will learn to manage hunger pangs when they do not receive instant gratification.
Too much sugar will encourage developing taste buds to desire only sweet flavors; however, as many children are obsessed with candy, is it such a bad idea to say, “Go ahead. Eat all you want”? Once they get a stomach ache (and we’ve all been there), one hopes that they will learn from their mistakes. Ask those who work in a bakery or a chocolate shop if they indulge in the broken freebees all day long. Gorging past fullness on both junk and sugary snacks teaches a child to learn through experiencing the limits of their body.
As kids mature, involve them in supermarket choices, planning menus, and preparing some meals. Creating a simple dish without help is a great life-skill experience — mistakes and all. With supportive parents to help them through their efforts, they will grow up to appreciate natural whole foods.
Don’t treat meals as a restaurant. If kids get used to being offered peanut butter sandwiches as a substitute for a meal, you are doomed. Likewise, when dining out, ignore the “kids menu” that generally includes hot dogs. Instead, share your meal or opt for a small portion from something they will enjoy.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables will get children excited about good food. With soil, compost and a few seeds, you could create a small garden or make some container boxes.
Meals should be colorful, appetizing and nourishing without extra labor. Freshly steamed vegetables that are not overcooked will always be a hit at any age. Before long, you’ll see any picky eater demolish brussels sprouts, quinoa, black beans and more.
Larraine authors children’s adventure stories at www.castlecompost.com