The new school year is upon us, and it’s every parent’s mealtime (and lunchbox) crusade – getting your kids to eat healthier. Well, its mine at least. Easy(ish) when they’re young and they pretty much eat anything you put in front of them. Not so easy when school starts and they discover a whole new world – like their classmate’s lunch boxes filled with no-no’s like soda and Doritos.
When my 3 kids were babies I started them all of with what I think is the Bible of healthy-baby-eating, The Super Baby Food Book. Well, I admit that it got to a lesser degree with #2, but with #3 came the the advent of commercial organic baby food, which made things a lot easier. Whether you are a DIY Mom like Ruth of the Super Baby Book (who also makes her own Play Dough, mind you), or prefer to buy from the organic aisle at the supermarket, know that giving your kids a healthy diet now means setting up their foundations for a healthy life. Now isn’t that a worthwhile mission?
Here are my tips on how to help you get started (and hopefully keep going!):
1. Teach Them About Health
My Mom did this for my sister and I (she was and still is what you would call a “health nut”), and I have to say that it stuck. Explain to your kids WHY certain foods are good or bad for you and you’ll be surprised how well they’ll respond. I try and use language they understand like: “…healthy food like fruit and vegetables helps you get bigger and stronger, but also makes your “soldiers” strong to fight bad germs so you don’t get sick“. There are a few kids shows now which touch on this, as well as books. Read/watch and talk about it with them and be prepared to answer their questions.
2. Vegetarian Meals= Budget meals
Yes, its true! Add a vegetarian meal or two to your weekly menu and see how much you can save. It’s a known fact that fresh produce is significantly cheaper than meats (which are some of the costliest food items in stores), so by serving say, a vegetarian lasagna rather than the “al forno” with beef, you not only give your kids a veggie-filled nutritious meal, you also save on the weekly budget (yipee!), plus it’s good for the planet. Why? read about vegatarianism and the environment here.
3. Make it Fun!
My kids and I like to play quick games like guessing which food is “healthy or not”. For example, what’s better? french fries or apple slices with cinnamon? (Okay, so my husband doesn’t join in and prefers to roll his eyes- but WE enjoy it!). The winner gets a small prize like stickers. You can also make healthy food attractive and fun by using a cookie cutter to make shapes and adding “faces” (raisins and sliced red pepper make easy instant characters). Brit Mom turned kid-food guru, Anabel Karmel is a total wiz at this and I love her cookbooks.
4. Go Organic
Finding organic food is really easy these days, and the health benefits are huge. Would you prefer to feed your kids things without harmful chemicals and pesticides? With more nutrients and vitamins? I would. It’s a really simple choice, and really worth the extra effort.
5. Plan Ahead and Cook More, Mom!
I really believe that planning ahead, being organized and cooking yourself is the key to healthier eating. Look online for new healthy recipes to try (you can get the kids to help choose here), add more fruit and veg to your meals, and take a few minutes every Sunday to plan healthy weekly menus– this really helps keep me in budget too!
Photo via Tanya Dawn