October 20, 2013

How to Get Kids to Eat More Vegetables. ~ Jennifer Lewis

Teaching my kids how to eat healthy, involving them in learning how to make healthy dishes and making health a priority in my home is one of the most rewarding feelings as a mother.

I know that I am helping my kids fight disease and setting them up for a future of disease free living. Not only that, but they will make health a priority for the rest of their lives and pass this on to future generations.

It wasn’t always like this though, I was raised on hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. Mom hated vegetables, grandpa hated broccoli and Dad didn’t think a meal was a meal without meat and potatoes. This is how I grew up, so this is what I passed on to my children.

It wasn’t until I decided for myself that I didn’t want to be fat, depressed and in pain anymore that I made a change. I educated myself about what good nutrition was and  I explored nutrition as a way to help my children with ADHD and Asperger’s. I got support to make the changes I needed to make.

It wasn’t easy. The kids were used to cereal, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and microwaved tater tots and I was guilty of drive thru fast food and pizza (we still enjoy this every once in awhile).  When I decided that they would eat more greens and whole foods and quit processed foods it was quite the challenge.

Why is it important to continue the battle and feed your family healthily?

You only get one body for your entire life and the national life expectancy average is 78.7 years. We have been taught that we are meant to grow old and live in pain and suffer. This just isn’t the case.  I have met 70-year old marathon runners and seen 93-year old yoginis. These people have made health a priority and their vibrancy and energy shows because of it. I want this for my kids…heck I want that for myself!

Our kids are in the middle of a health crisis and 17 percent of our children are obese.

Why does this matter? First, this number is tripled from just one generation ago and obese children make obese adults.

Obesity leads to many more deadly health problems:

Obesity is common, serious and costly.

More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7 percent) are obese.

Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer—some of the leading causes of preventable death.

The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

When our kids eat healthymeaning no food dyes, whole foods and home cooked meals they become more well behaved, easier to handle, more joyful, have less melt-downs, are more focused, sleep better and you can manage their asthma and allergies better.

I could go on and on about the benefits of changing your child’s diet, but you should give it a try and see for yourself.

What can you do to have them begging for more vegetables:

1. Sneak them into their smoothies

This is one of the easiest ways to start. Spinach blends up nicely and pairs well with blueberries and strawberries—the kids don’t even know it is in there. (Secret ninja tip: don’t let them see you put it in there and if they do taste it at first, start with less  spinach and more fruit. I find that banana sweetens the smoothies and you can even add a bit of stevia if your child has a sweet tooth.)

2. Let them help

It has been proven that children who help prepare the food are more likely to eat it. It doesn’t have to be something fancy, it can simply be peeling the cucumbers or carrots. Recently, my seven-year old helped me pick the tomatoes from the garden and make and can homemade spaghetti sauce.

3. Get creative and make it fun

Recently, I purchased a spiral vegetable slicer and we have had so much fun. My kids were eating raw zucchini and sweet potatoes, running around the house yelling, “I love zucchini!” Music to this mom’s ears! Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring. We baked curly sweet potato fries and had zucchini noodles in our homemade vegetable soup, all of which they participated in making. (Yes, these are the same kids who only ate microwaved chicken nuggets).

4. Grow a vegetable garden together

You can grow a vegetable garden whether you have a large amount of space or a small balcony. This is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to spend time together and teach your kids about eating whole foods. My kids will eat the sugar snaps peas right off the plant. The best part is the vegetables and fruit you grow on your own are more nutritious and can be 100 percent pesticide free and grown with love. You can even can and freeze the excess and it helps to cut down on the family food budget as well.

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Assist Ed: Miciah Bennett/Ed: Sara Crolick

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