A few weeks ago, I received an email from one of my old clients who I supported in her fertility journey and who now has a beautiful little son (yay!!). In her email she said that she has been watching what I feed Felix and Hendrix via instagram and if I have any advice.
Here is what I shared with her when it comes to not only WHAT I feed my boys, but HOW I feed them.
1. Meal mentality
>> I want my kids to love mealtime now and forever.
Some of the greatest conversations, best insights, and deepest bondings in my life have happened over meals, so I want them to have a positive association with mealtime and coming together to enjoy food and community.
In other words, I don't want mealtime to be a forced experience or a stressful time for them (or me!). This may become more relevant as the kids get a bit older and will start to occasionally refuse meals (and insist on pesto pasta or toast with butter like Felix sometimes does after I cooked up a healthy meal for them), but basically I try to make the meal environment as nice and fun and engaging as possible.
>> One of my key goals is that we all eat the same thing and whenever possible, together.
I don't want to cook three different meals (or do the clean-up from that) and I think it's important to show the kids that -with a few exceptions- we eat what we have. That means that Raz and I add salt or spicy spices after the meal is cooked. Of course, if we make something new or Felix (Hendrix is too little) just doesn't like it, we do give him something else, but you get where I am going... these are our goals and we try as best as we can without adding unnecessary stress, being rigid or ignoring Felix's personal, growing preferences.
>> I also try to include the kids in the cooking activities (which sometimes requires a deep inhale because, let's be honest, it can get messy).
When we cook together, they can try different things and flavors while we cook and make it an overall exciting event (for ex., we pretend like chia seed are ants, roasted chicken is a dinosaur ... stuff like that ;)). I also know that some parents don't want their kids to play while they eat, but I let Felix have his cars with him (or whatever he's into) and we pretend-feed the trucks, which teaches him about sharing and generosity + I can say things like "the bulldozer is eating his brussle sprouts, don't you want to try it" :)
While I totally appreciate how infuriating it can be if your kids reject food that you labored over (I've totally been there), I also always try to remind myself that a calm, happy belly digests better (even if it is lentil pasta again...) than a stressed, tense belly trying to munch down kale.
That brings me to my second topic:
2. The meal itself
I try to make blood-sugar balancing and gut health our whole family meal philosophy as well as "eating the rainbow."
My goal for my kids is to be adventurous and not afraid of food. That's why I always put all sorts of things on Felix's and Hendrix's plate- even if I think they wont like it, I put it on there anyways. I've been surprised at what Felix will eat... like sauerkraut, brussle sprouts or liver (never thought he'd like those things, but he LOVES them!). If he rejects a food, I just bring it back a few weeks later.
I do use little tricks, however, to get him to eat healthy food: I know, for example, that Felix will always go for the carbs first and when he's pretty full, he's much less likely to eat his vegetables. That's why I give him fruits and veggies, nuts or seeds while I cook and then the protein, and then the carb if that's the kind of meal we're having.
Having fun and different containers and plates on hand also helps to keep their interest and engage them into a variety of foods on their plates.
Another "trick" I use is making healthy swaps and healthy additions: for example, instead of regular pasta, we get lentil or chickpea pasta, instead of just butter, we use pesto sauce and since that is making everything green, I add some fine chopped broccoli or kale. Healthy swaps are KEY for all of our health, I find.
In case it's not obvious, sugar drinks or sodas and junk food or fast food are non-existent in our household.
One of the most stressful moments are when your kids reject food altogether and you're worried that they're not eating enough. My friend Ashley Koch put it perfectly in her article on my blog: you are responsible for where your kids eat, what they eat and when they eat, but not for how much they eat.
3. Special treats:
I always told myself I wouldn't give Felix sugar and never use food as a treat (or a bribe). I've done ALL of those things haha.
I kept sugar away for as long as I could, but there just comes a time when they are around other kids when they want to try a cupcake or cookies. At first this was a source of stress for me and then I realized that this is the world we live in and they will occasionally have sugar or an ice-cream with us and that's fine. We do what we can at home.
Food should ALWAYS come first, but here is what I use for the boys in addition to healthy food:
Tell me about your food philosophy in the comments below. What and how do you feed your kids? What are your biggest hurdles to feeding your kids healthy food?