The Foods of Today Influence Tomorrow: Raising Healthy Children
Posted Aug 14 2012 6:30am
I have always been a fairly healthy eater. As a young child, I was often criticized for ordering salads at restaurants. I was told that if I wanted to eat rabbit food, I could do so at home. Restaurants were a place to enjoy large slabs of red meat, greasy goods, and everything disproportionate to what a body really needs. I seldom let the criticism to sway my decision to enjoy heaping mounds of lettuce, beans, peas, carrots, sunflower seeds, hard boiled eggs, and every other good thing I could find on salad bars. My love of fresh produce has carried through into adulthood and further into parenthood.
I’m adamant about educating my children on the benefits of a well-balanced, clean diet. With both of my boys, we’ve been down the limited allergy-related diet and the one who faced more challenges than most with a premature birth and continuing issue with Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). The end result for each of my children were diets heavy in processed foods that didn’t facilitate proper growth and health. Finding a way to change those bad habits without shocking their systems took ingenuity, persistence, and a broken freezer.
Introduction of smoothies
A few years back, I made a very subtle change in the way my children enjoyed desserts. I jumped to blend frozen and fresh fruits with vegetables, yogurts, and almond milk. I created delightful beverages filled to the brim with living nutrition. Smoothies were the gateway I needed to slowly begin incorporating more and more raw foods into their diets under the false assumption they were enjoying desserts.
Within a few months, I began sharing with my children what was contained in those delicious blended creations. They watched in awe as berries, spinach, nut-butters, and more turned into cold, frothy drinks again and again. As my children learned what foods went into the blender, I began adding more of those same foods into our regular meal routine. I didn’t expect my children to dive right into the raw vegetables accompanying their standard meals right away – and they didn’t. I worked diligently to remind them that they had, in fact, already been enjoying this vegetable or that in their smoothies. With time, both of my boys warmed up to the idea of eating their colored arrays.
The broken freezer
While my children became tolerant of their healthier diets, they still loved to eat anything quick that came from a box or the freezer. Their favorites included frozen pizzas, fish sticks, and nuggets. All foods that had high concentrations of preservatives, high-fructose-corn-syrup, and many other bits I’ve long considered garbage were beacons to these little people. Most of that resided in the freezer. When the freezer broke, I made a conscientious decision to not repair it!
That’s right, we live without a freezer, and I love it! I no longer have processed foods hiding in cardboard boxes or bags. Those foods are out of sight and out of mind for my boys. Without the processed counterparts, my children have learned the joy of eating fresh fish, free-range chicken, and how to make a delicious pizza dough from organic ingredients kept in the pantry. They have learned just how delicious whole foods truly are and I’ve watched as their health has improved.
Positive influence today
That was two years ago when my boys were only 2 and 6. Today, I had a great reminder of how important the decision to introduce healthy foods truly was in their diet. Our morning was rushed and we failed to eat breakfast prior to shuffling out the door. While we were running errands, we decided to stop and have brunch. I allowed my children to pick their own meals without stepping in — just to see what tickled their palates. What they ordered brought smiles to my eyes:
Pancakes with apple slices and grapes.
What was even more surprising – my boys devoured their fruit and hardly touched the pancakes.
I made a decision to benefit their health by altering their diets two years ago and today, they show me just how a small change has instilled a love of healthy foods that will continue to fuel their bodies.