Yummy, yummy in my tummy!
We hear that we are what we eat! How important those words can be to parents of young children. I believe it is very important that we help children form good eating habits right at the beginning of life. We could start a whole conversation about how we are so busy and we don’t have time to cook, or make meals for our kids. Often that is true, but it seems that we could spend a little extra time working on our kids’ diets from early on and it will pay big dividends later in their lives.
We know that there is an obesity problem in kids that has reached epidemic proportions. Often it is cited as a problem of poverty, but I would argue that it can be a problem of not spending the appropriate time planning and working together as a family to make sure everyone eats well.
When my kids were young, I made some good choices and some poor ones in helping them learn healthy eating habits. One of the best choices I made was to breast feed them, even though I was working full time. I realize that not everyone can do that, but if you can, it is the healthiest start you can give your child. One of the poor choices I made was to give my son apple juice as a drink. He seldom drank water and drank so much (undiluted) apple juice that he was nicknamed “Applejack” before he was 18 months old. Another good choice was to make their baby food. I would make it on the weekend and freeze it in ice cube trays for the next week of lunches at the babysitter or when I needed a quick meal at home. This was a great way to introduce new foods at a very young age. I would blend up some of the food we adults had for a meal so they were introduced to real foods without added ingredients.
Our family tried to make meal time important and fun at our house and it has been carried on as a tradition in my grandchildren’s homes. They participate in the planning and making of the meals and consequently are quite diverse in the kinds of food they eat. One of our grandkids absolutely loves sushi – why? She was introduced to it at an early age and continues to enjoy it as she grows. Another of our granddaughters doesn’t like many things. She is a carb-aholic, but her parents insist that she eats what they serve for dinner and she must try new things even if she doesn’t like them. She always can be found with some carrots on her plate as they are the food for when all else fails!
Cooking for even toddlers can be a great learning tool for healthy meals. Yes, it’s more work, but in the end it will pay big dividends. Toddlers can beat eggs, preschoolers can measure ingredients, and school aged children can cook some things themselves. Of course, supervision and common sense are needed around knives and hot surfaces, but when a child helped make an item, there is greater ownership for them. Some of my best pictures are of my grandkids helping in the kitchen with their mom or dad.
Giving kids choices is very important. You choose the cereal that you want in the house. With two kinds, you may offer your child an option. They will feel more control. When making a sandwich, ask your child if they would like the piece in triangles or rectangles. You can even throw squares into the mix as well as using a cookie cutter to cut a fun shape for their sandwich. This is another opportunity to introduce a new food in a fun way without a big battle.
One of the most important things you can teach your child is the importance of drinking water. If that is what you give them in between meals, that is what they will drink. Please refrain from giving them sugary drinks like Kool-aid, or soda. Diet soda is probably worse than anything (shared by a person who has kicked an addiction to Diet Coke). Water is refreshing and healthy.
Sometimes we see very odd lunches at the preschool – pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, prepackaged lunches that consist of crackers, cheese and pepperoni (all processed foods), highly sweetened yogurt, etc. These are all convenience foods that are just that – convenient. However, you might actually save money on your grocery bill by cutting up fruit and veggies, or sending a child with a thermos of leftovers from yesterday’s dinner and in the process, give them the healthy meals they deserve.
Below you will find two excellent sites that may be helpful to you in assessing and working toward creating healthy eating for your child. Yummy, yummy, in my tummy!