seven steps for nourishing your growing kiddo!
why healthy eating habits are as important as ever
It’s amazing how parents’ roles change so much in a relatively short period of time. Life used to be all about swaddling and snuggling. But now? Have you ever seen anyone as busy as your kid? There’s playing and constructing and imagining and dressing up and creating and climbing and so much more. We’re just there, skirting around the edges, standing in as an imaginary character when instructed, and schlepping to and from classes, school, and play dates. Mostly we’re making sure they have the energy to pull off all of this fun! This means breakfast, snack, enforcing a nap, lunch, snack, dinner, water, water, and more water—and knowing just when that blood sugar might dip and get in the way of their play. Preemptive snacking is truly a parental art form. What you offer your big kid (four years and up!) for these meals and snacks is really important. Here’s the thing—it doesn’t matter if your child had a 100 percent homemade organic diet from the moment she started gumming solids or if she has been a really picky eater. What matters is now. What you put on the plate this very moment. Kids of all ages need nutrition to grow. And it’s never, ever too late to start with healthy eating. If this is what you’re already doing as a family, great, continue on—please pass the kale! But if healthy eating is new to you, or if you’re in a bit of a rut, here are some suggestions to make it an effortless part of your family life. Just remember to take the long view. The total sum of what your child eats throughout a day or even a week is what counts. Enjoy!
Some parents say that it’s better to eat meals than to fill up on snacks. But this isn’t always practical. Snacks can be a critical part of a healthy diet. When snacking, choose fresh whole foods whenever possible such as baby carrots or sliced peppers with hummus or apple wedges with creamy almond butter.
MAKE TIME FOR FAMILY MEAL
We’re all busy, but a family meal when all members—from babies to parents to grandparents—eat the same thing (more or less) is a key component of healthy eating. Fill plates with flavorful whole grains, complete proteins, and colorful vegetables. Fruit makes the perfect dessert. Have fun.
Kids notice everything. And they will especially notice if you ask them to eat something you’re not willing to eat yourself. Practice what you preach: Be a good healthy eating role model. If you love quinoa, salmon, or whatever other superfood you’d like your kids to try, it will be an easier ask.
YOU HAVE A MINI CHEF
Use her! Remember how hard it was to get dinner on the table when your kid was a baby? Now it can be much easier, because you can get her involved in the process. Though knife skills may be a few years ahead of you, small fingers are perfect for washing lettuce or kneading dough. Bonus: the sights, sounds, and fun that happen in a kitchen are said to motivate kids to try—and possibly devour—what they make.
WHO ARE YOU CALLING PICKY
At this age, most kids are expressing preferences for certain foods and distain for others. You know the drill—gooey cheese on anything trumps spinach. That doesn’t mean anything is set in stone. Just keep offering a wide variety of colorful, flavorful food. Even if your child doesn’t immediately respond, keep their horizons open. Eventually they will respond. In the meantime, small amounts of the good stuff will get eaten.
MAKE FAST FOOD SLOW
So your kid likes chicken fingers and fries. Join the club. Instead of fighting their interest, make your own healthy versions. What kid can resist an oven-baked sweet potato “fry” or a hearty pizza she got to decorate herself?
TAKE BACK THE LUNCH BOX
Remember when you were there for every meal your baby ate? Sniff. Pack that lunch box like you are there eating with them! What you pack for their meals out in the world should match the way you eat at home. Be playful; who said you had to make a sandwich every single day? Get your eater involved with choosing what she wants (she’ll be more likely to eat it!), and have her help make it, too. Then sit back and enjoy the empty containers at the end of the day.