Giving Kids a Healthy Start

healthystartImagine if your kids were as excited as you are to prepare an amazing meal with a gorgeous display of fruits and veggies? For most of us, the reality is our kids may think the colours here look pretty, but don’t you dare put that stuff on their plate!  They have learned along the way that vegetables are the enemy, that healthy food must taste gross and if they put up enough of a fight, you may give in and hand over dessert anyhow.

As parents we start making decisions the minute our children are born that will affect how and what they will eat for the rest of their lives. I believe there are some simple steps we can take right from the beginning to give kids a healthy start. You can’t make them love vegetables, but you can ensure what they are eating is the healthiest option.

Making Your Own Baby Food
Why make your own when there are inexpensive jars of “all natural” baby food on store shelves? Most of those jars can stay on store shelves because they have preservatives in them preventing them from spoiling. There are so many benefits to making your own.  I realized that when I cook & puree my own veggies I can control the salt, the sugar & the consistency; add more or less water for thicker or thiner baby food.  Hint, thicker food is less messy. I also know what is in every meal I give my baby and can create new combinations based on my childs preferences.

ONLY Whole Grain Breads
My children have never had white bread. Well, not in my house! My oldest was 6 years old before she figured out there even was another kind of bread. She had it at a friends house and of course thought it was the greatest tasting invention ever! Still there is no white bread in my house.

Pureed Vegetables
My kids have long out grown baby food, but I still cook and puree tons of veggies. I am not above hiding vegetables in my spaghetti sauces, macaroni & cheese, hamburger helper and even in muffins, cookies and brownies. Why not? They get all the nutrients of the vegetables in food they already love  and I get none of the grief.  Sometimes they don’t even know its in there.

Buy Healthy Cereals
No fruity o’s and fruit shaped marshmallows are not healthy.  Be a smart shopper, buy only simple cereals with whole grains that are not covered in tons of artificial colours, flavours and sugar. We have a self serve cupboard at our house with healthy cereals my kids can help themselves to anytime. I offer 4 different cereals but none of them have chocolate inside or cartoons characters on the front.  I do buy treat cereals for just that, a treat . . but that treat is a dessert or a car snack for long trips or to be used for crafts and NOT eaten! It is never the food they start their day with!

One Juice Only
I’d rather they have real fruit and yes, I know juice from concentrate can be good for you in moderation. I think that is the key. There are good vitamins in juice but also a lot of sugar (26grams in a cup of apple juice!). My kids have always only been allowed 1 juice a day. Once that’s done, your other choices are milk or water. And those drinks pretending to be juice? Those crystals and drink blends and juice hidden behind a label that says ‘cocktail’ . . . they are not juice!  If you do buy juice, make sure it’s 100% real juice!

I know I can only make the decisions about what my kids eat for a few more years and then they will decide what choices to make at the cafeteria and the grocery store. I can only hope I have given them a few simple lessons to make informed & healthy decisions.  Do you have any simple tricks you use at home?