As a nutritionist without a doubt, the most frequent question I’m asked by parents is - ‘how do I get my kids to eat healthier?’ And, it usually comes up at the beginning of a school term when we’re all trying to get back into routine and eat a few less of the holiday (aka indulgent and discretionary) foods. I could speak/write for hours on this, it’s my passion to help parents better the health of their children (and hopefully themselves!) but I don’t know many parents with hours to listen! So today, take these 4 simple ways to get your kids eating healthier as they head back to school and hopefully before long, things will click and it won’t be a hard push for you as a parent, but rather just a way of life.
GIVE THEM HEALTHY FOODS WHEN YOU KNOW THEY’LL BE AT THEIR HUNGRIEST
It’s hard to turn down food when you’re hangry - no matter what it is! The hiccup is however that all too often we are unprepared for those moments with healthy food on hand. This year take note of your children’s hungry times and be ready. They’re usually first thing in the morning, immediately after school and just as you’re in the final stages of getting dinner ready. You’ll know best though. Some ideas.
- First thing in the morning - bircher muesli packed with seeds and whole oats the night before so it’s ready to dollop into a bowl the next day. Cut fresh fruit when you get up and have it waiting for them - there’s something about it being cut first thing in the morning that encourages kids to eat it too. Have the healthier options for toast spreads out and ready - all-natural peanut butter and other nut butters, some avocado ready, grab or make a chia jam on the weekend, eat a banana and cinnamon on toast in front of them some time and let them try it too. Make smoothies with some extra veggies (frozen zucchini, baby spinach or frozen cauliflower) for those with little time in the mornings because of sport or you know… a bit of a late sleep in and mad rush out the door?!?
- Immediately at school pick up - over it, tired, hangry - have the good stuff at the ready. Try veggie sticks and dips, half an avocado with lemon and salt, chickpea peanut butter balls. And rather than soft drinks or juice boxes go for a bottle of Remedy Jnr. instead. Remedy Jnr. is the newest member to the Remedy fam - a lightly sparkling, live cultured, organic drink in 3 fab flaves - Ace Apple, Tropical Tango and Berry Blast, AND of course it contains NO SUGAR, for real.
- Pre-dinner - have steamed veggies, salads, and veggie sticks ready for the munching, that way if they’re too tired at dinner to eat them you know you’ve tucked them in prior!
PUT HEALTHY FOODS AT EYE LEVEL IN THE FRIDGE AND PANTRY
Out of sight out of mind is probably the easiest way to start and then popping the right food in sight is the next step. Create a snack drawer/basket/shelf in the pantry with healthy options for them to grab at eye level.
In our pantry, this includes seaweed snacks, rice crackers and other quick delicious cracker options, muesli bars, toasted fava beans and chickpeas, and popcorn. The same goes in the fridge! Aim for the fridge to have options that are raw but also ready-made for ease of decision making such as dips, smoothies, fresh whole fruit, boiled eggs, cooked edamame/soybeans, felafel and ravioli to heat and eat, baked fruits to have with yoghurt, washed berries visibly ready to eat, and other healthy snacks you’ve made so the kids don’t even have to ask - it’s just there.
ENCOURAGE DIFFERENT WAYS OF LOOKING AT HEALTHY FOODS
Whilst we’d love for kids to simply accept and eat healthier foods, sometimes this just really won’t be the case. And telling them to ‘eat it BECAUSE it’s healthy’ doesn’t necessarily work. Start to reframe how you explain healthy foods to kids.
Try to mix up your approach with :
+ “this food might help you sleep better” (a good one for disrupted/more anxious sleepers),
+ “this drink (*Remedy Jnr) can help the good bugs in your gut WIN! or “can help your brain think more clearly so you can ace your test!”
+ having some fun with sayings too - we all need it! Try “eat your fruits and eat your veggies, stay super happy and have less wedgies!”
BE THE ROLE MODEL TO THEM
It’s hard for kids to rationalise healthier eating and WHY they should do it if their parents aren’t leading by example. Let’s be honest too - it’s also double standards if you don’t right? So give eating healthier whilst going back to school more purpose and do it not just for your kids, but do it for you too. That’s the beauty of parenthood. In the process of wanting the absolute best in life for our kids, we have the opportunity to shape and create the best life and health for us too.
If you want them to eat fresh veggies as a snack, eat those with them. If you want them to drink kombucha (Remedy of course) instead of soft drink, give up your alcoholic choice, and have one too. If you want them to eat a healthy lunchbox, maybe time to start packing your own.
All HEALTHY food for thought this school year - for your kids AND YOU TOO.