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Teaching Kids Healthy Eating Habits? Here’s What Really Matters!

I’ve had a passion for cooking for as long as I can remember. It started with cooking with my mom and grandma, and eventually led me to start my own blog. I have been collecting recipes and techniques over the years, from family, the Mexican restaurant I used to work at, along with videos, and IG accounts. When I introduced solids to my oldest son, I had one thing in mind: feeding homemade natural foods as much as possible. This noble mission has slowly evolved to fostering a good relationship with food. To help my kids become more than just healthy eaters.

We live in the information era. From diets to meal-plans, to keeping up with the latest food trends and staying ahead of the growth curve, everything at the click of a mouse. The pressure to fit standards can drive us crazy, to the point where we can have a negative impact in the way our kids relate to food. The ultimate goal is to find a healthy balance, for behavior problems and also the long-term effects that processed food has on our health. 

Let’s be honest, it’s almost impossible to live a sugar-free life. It’s also unhealthy to be obsessed with what our kids eat, trust me, I tried. You can be the crazy mom that doesn’t allow processed sugars, but that only goes so far. I also believe our children should be exposed to different types of food. To me, teaching them the difference between healthful and unhealthy options are the key to the long-term relationship with food. 

Healthy Eating: Every Child is Different

For the first three years after my oldest was born, I was very careful with the cakes and sweets we ate. I was also careful not to feed him too much starch. We had as many raw vegetables as possible and all kinds of fruits. I also introduced different flavors. Seasoning from all over the world while keeping salt levels low. As we started to attend more birthday parties and moved to public schools, we hit the inevitable: candy,  processed foods, and sodas. By then, my son was already conscious of what was healthy and not. At no point did we have forbidden foods. I definitely avoid them, and as an example, we have yet to go to a McDonalds, but we do have the occasional Shake Shack treat.

This simple balance has slowly helped him build a conscience of what is healthy for his body. Don’t get me wrong, almost every night we finish our dinner with dessert. On some days it’s a cookie, on others ice cream, but we try to focus on fruits. This is his choice and he is very aware of what is healthy and not. I also send the occasional hot dog as school lunch and he loves going to the stadium to eat stadium food. Again, the key is balance and an honest conversation regarding the effects of an unhealthy diet. 

My second son is completely different. He will take dessert over anything, and since we eat dinner together as a family, we have to time it with him either being full or done with his meal. As always, he was introduced to cupcakes and gummy bears at a much earlier age. The beauty of being the youngest child!  What I do try is to have fruits as a snack as much as possible and take the lunch as an opportunity to feed him nutrient-rich food while big brother is at school. Unlike his brother, he is more stubborn when it comes to mealtime and would only eat what he wants at the moment. 

 

A simple take away

Both experiences have been completely different and the second has proven to be a bigger challenge. It is clear that every child is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all method. My takeaway: don’t force things, talk about healthful eating, and keep introducing new flavors and textures. Sometimes you hit a home run, sometimes you hit a brick wall.

As my pediatrician says, don’t think about what they eat in a day, but rather what they have in three days. Make sure veggies and fruits are in the menu and don’t force it. Also, don’t hide the vegetables. That might be the number one mistake we make. A mistake out of love and misconception. But in the long term, what we want for them is to develop a good relationship with food at the same time that they listen to their body. To learn to fill craving with healthy options and to control themselves when faced with junk. Ultimately they will learn to make the right choices, or so we wish. My hope is that I have laid a good foundation!

 

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One Response to Teaching Kids Healthy Eating Habits? Here’s What Really Matters!

  1. Paula June 26, 2018 at 8:46 pm #

    I fully agree with your takeaway. The key is balance! It is important to have different food groups including the occasional pizza at a birthday party or fast food on those days you don’t want to cook. My boys recognize these are exceptions on our relative healthy meals. I see these non so healthy meals as stress relievers and accept them occasionally as sanity checks away from a helicopter parent triaging every meal.

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