When we found out that Grace needed to be on a gluten, dairy, egg and sugar free diet we had to make some big changes in how we ate. As a family we embraced her diet (with the exception of eggs). Thankfully Grace and Lauren learned to love healthy, nutritious food. Here’s how we did it and what we learned along the way.
My advice for parents of picky eaters:
When it comes to food, take charge and be the parent. Kids have no idea what their minds and bodies need to be healthy. Help them build a strong immune system and healthy food preferences while they are young so they can avoid the many chronic diseases that have become so common on the SAD (Standard American Diet).
- Stock your pantry and fridge with clean, nourishing food. If it’s not in the house no one will eat it.
- It’s your responsibility to provide and prepare good food. It is your child’s responsibility to eat it. Avoid food battles and bribing.
- Remember, your child will not let himself starve!
- Always combine sweet snacks with a good fat or protein to keep blood sugar levels stable and prevent a sugar addiction.
- Introduce new foods in very small portions along side familiar foods.
- Encourage your child to take a no thank you bite. Tell them to take a bite and if they don’t like it, they can say, ‘no thank you’. Don’t stop introducing the food just because the child doesn’t like it at first.
- Tell your child that taste buds change and you can learn to like anything if you keep trying it.
- Have your child eat healthy food FIRST. Put the items they like most in a separate plate where they can see it but aren’t allowed to eat any until the healthy food is finished.
- If your child is very stubborn you can set a timer for meal times. If they refuse to try their new food before the timer dings then the meal is over and they can go. However, they will not be allowed to eat anything else until their food is eaten. Leave the food on the table so they can return if they get hungry and eat it later.
- Involve your child in cooking. Let them help plan the menu. Teach them to cook.
- Make the food look fun to eat.
- Don’t allow children to eat dessert if they are unwilling to eat their meal. If they are hungry enough to eat dessert they can eat their dinner. Teaching kids not to waste is important. If they are full, they can come back later and finish their food.
- Blend vegetables and add them to soups, chili, spaghetti sauce and other meals.
- Set a good example by eating healthy food in front of your child.
- Help your child plant a garden to grow their favorite vegetables.
- Educate your child about nutrition. Read labels with them and have them do some research to learn how certain ingredients effect their health. Do the same with healthy foods. Sites like, The World’s Healthiest Foods, http://whfoods.org/the-worlds-healthiest-foods/ do a wonderful job of describing the health benefits of specific foods and provide links to clinical studies and research on these foods.
- Divide food into red, yellow and green categories so kids understand which foods are more nutritious (feed our cells, clean our bodies and strengthen the immune system) and which ones are anti-nutritious (damage, inflame and deplete the body of nutrition). Example: Green foods (broccoli, coconut, sweet potatoes, carrots), Yellow foods (milk chocolate, raw honey, peanuts, gluten free pancakes), Red (soda, store bought fruit juice, artificial sweeteners, candy).
- Find local farmers and farmer’s markets and take your kids to visit them. A field trip to a farm can be a wonderful educational experience for kids. Let them milk a cow and gather eggs.
- There are many good documentaries on food that you can watch with your older children.