Raising Healthy Eaters
By Bridget GuruBeant Welch, LMT
How do you raise a healthy eater? Start early and feed them real foods from the beginning. When your baby is ready to begin eating solids, replace processed, constipating, rice cereals with fresh avocado (great for the brain and heart), or banana or steamed carrots or zucchini. When possible, make your own baby food by steaming and mashing vegetables. Also, avoid those foods marketed for babies and toddlers that are processed cereal-like puffs in plastic canisters, which can set baby up for constipation and carbohydrate addiction (loving only bread products), and possibly lead toward obesity, gluten sensitivity, and diabetes. Likewise, avoid syrupy fruit concentrate juice packs. There are plenty of fresh fruits that children love.
When toddlers can chew, try cutting easy-to-eat kidney or cannelini beans in half, warm or cold. Grapes cut in half, raisins torn open, softer fruit pieces like kiwi, mango, or papaya will be fun for a young pallet. There’s also yogurt and scrambled eggs once you get to about a year.
Resist sharing soda, chips, chocolate or candy with your child for as long as you can. I used to sprout my own lentils and my daughter would eat them happily with her lunch. Grandma was visiting and joked, “Poor kid, she doesn’t know any better.” Yes, that’s right, she mostly knew what healthy food tasted like and didn’t know what she was missing for a few years there.
Open-faced sprouted whole grain toast with butter or coconut oil, a layer of nut butter and a layer of jam is a tasty snack for a little one. Cut sandwiches in fun shapes, make veggie plates that look like a face, serve “ants on a log” (celery with nut butter or cream cheese and raisins).
Talk to your children about why certain foods are good for them. Broccoli is good for your bones, beets are good for your blood, and so forth. Teach them that a wide variety of colors of produce provide a wide array of nutrients. Involve them in the cooking process so they learn what they like and may develop a desire to cook as well. Show them where food comes from. Grow some food in your yard, even if it is one potted tomato plant. Take them to local growers’ markets to purchase foods. Get to know the farmers by name. This will also make them a savvy and healthy eater.
If your child grows to be picky, find out what healthy foods they do like and feed them those. Then, disguise and sneak in what you can. My friend’s picky-eater son likes pesto and pasta, so she sneaks red bell pepper and carrots into the pesto when she makes it. I dice things like onions and leafy greens really small in my beans and soups to give my family a little more nutrition.
Experiment, and keep educating yourself about food, then share what you discover with your children.