Kids: Training the Taste Buds
One of the most common questions I get is how to do I get my kids to eat healthy. Folks see pictures or video of my kids drinking smoothies or eating veggies and wonder how the heck am I getting them to eat that! First of all, I will say we are not perfect. We definitely make mistakes. But I will say that what our children eat are SUPER IMPORTANT to us and we've made creating a healthy foundation for them a huge priority. So I thought I would sling some wisdom out there on the subject. As I write this, our kiddos are 5 and 9 months.
What I know for us is this; it’s not just finding a trick or two. Friends, it’s about YOUR lifestyle. My simple answer is this.
Eat fresh food.
Don’t introduce processed foods.
I'll expand a bit on this based on my experience with our kiddos.
First of all, we’ve never introduced gluten. My husband and I don’t eat it so we simply didn’t feel the need to introduce it to our children. It’s linked strongly to digestive disorders and when non-organic, ADHD and even depression.
We’ve also don't feed our kids dairy - basically anything from cows. I don’t find it to be a health-promoting food for us so we don’t feel the need to introduce it to our children. For the first years of life, both of my children are consuming breast milk. After that, it’s fresh almond, coconut and hemp milks if we feel the need to use milk in a recipe or as a snack or drink.
We also do not eat processed/toxic food. Our version of processed is:
- Fast food
- Factory farmed food
- Food that contains artificial flavorings, colorings, GMO’s, trans fats, processed sugars, processed wheat or preservatives
We eat as close to fresh as possible – EVERY DAY. We consume fresh veggies, beans, grains nuts, fats, fruits and herbs. There are times local eggs or wild fish might make an appearance at our dinner table, but for the most part, we are consuming organic plants prepared without frying. No matter what is gracing our plate, it's clean. fresh. food.
We don’t prepare an alternative meal for our children. They eat what we eat.
When Ezra was a baby, I did make baby food for him and I do that for Elliana as well, but it’s usually made with the same ingredients that we’re using for our dinner that evening. For example – when I’m using lentils in a curry for dinner, I’ll put some aside to blend up with avocado and fresh almond milk or maybe some sweet potato as a soft food for her to eat. We also feed her avocado scooped straight from the fruit. She sucks on oranges and apples and she drinks my smoothies. She is truly eating what we eat.
Right now Elli (our 9 month old) has no clue what processed food is. She’s never been exposed. Ezra was the same. Yes, at some point, they do get exposed by outside influences, but when they are little, we have full control. This is the most crucial time (in my experience) to only expose them to the foods you find healthful.
How to train those buds:
Pregnancy – yes we can actually start training our kiddos what to eat when they are in the belly! Not only is eating clean, organic food the best thing you can do for YOU and the baby, you are also introducing that food to them through their bloodstream.
Breastfeeding – for those mamas who are blessed to be able to breastfeed their babies, this is where it gets real. Whatever you eat flows right into your milk. It can even change the flavor! Your baby not only gets to experience it through your milk but also through watching you eat and smelling it while you eat (most of my meals for the first year are with baby in lap or close by!). They are getting their first visual training on what humans eat. Are they learning to eat processed food or are they learning to eat apples, oranges and greens? It’s all up to you.
First Foods – the time is NOW. This is your moment mama. In my experience, introducing green foods like kale, broccoli and spinach (I steam and blend into a puree or blend into a smoothie) early is important. Before fruit juices or a lot of sweet fruits, teach them about those more bitter foods. Bitter foods are amazing for the liver, the blood, the kidneys and the immune system. They also help stabilize blood sugar. Important training for your kiddo’s cells. Ezra was eating fermented veggies before he was one-year-old. We paired it with avocado. A snack I ate during pregnancy. He also watched me eat it. So when it was time to feed it to him, it was not a foreign thing! And the more variety, the better. You can mash up beans and lentils, steamed sweet potato or any steamed organic veggie. Adding herbs like turmeric, thyme, oregano, basil…the possibilities are endless. It’s all good.
Their taste buds will change a hundred times over the course of their childhood. The pendulum will swing far and wide. But the important thing is getting a variety of clean foods and herbs into their diet in those first couple of years.
- The foods that are brimming with nutrients, minerals and healthy fats
- The foods that build and heal and sustain
- The foods that protect their delicate immune system
You are setting the foundation for what they will come back to as the pendulum swings. What they will come back to when they are feeling unwell or out of balance. You are training their taste buds for a future of guiding them to wellbeing. In my humble opinion, it’s just as important as anything else you teach them. It’s a life skill that will bless them all of their years to come.
Here’s the deal
Let’s forget for a moment how amazingly healthy it is to expose your children to eating well at the beginning of their life. It’s also EASIER ON YOU. When kids are given processed foods and sodas and candy at an early age, they now know it exists. Their taste buds have been exposed to the extreme flavors and sugars. You now have an uphill battle on your hands.
Broccoli is of course going to be boring compared to a chocolate chip cookie! So just don’t introduce the cookie. I promise they aren't missing anything. There will be plenty of time in their life to eat cookies.
Lastly mama, (and you awesome papas and caregivers out there) when you model a healthy lifestyle for your kiddos, you make eating well a lifestyle for you. It not only benefits your children but you and your wellbeing (and Lord knows we need it!). You show them wellbeing by EMBODYING IT! It’s a win-win.
Cheers my fellow mamas and papas. You’re doing a great job. Thank you for reading!