Step One: Make it a Family Game or Challenge
Kids love to play. So make it fun. Rope them in and tell them you all are going to try playing a new “game” of who can eat the most veggies in a day, or make a game out of including all three macronutrients at each meal. Make a “star chart” or tally chart if you like to keep tabs, and even throw in prizes along the way (such as: “winner at the end of the week gets to choose Sunday night’s dinner).
Step Two: Give Them Choices
Instead of “Eat your broccoli,” or “Do you want salad with your meal?” give them two choices to make the autonomous decision for themselves which ONE they want. Before the meal is served, ask: “Do you want broccoli OR salad?” Or, “Apple OR orange?” Or, “Sweet potato fries OR carrot fries?” Kids are more likely to be “on board” with the idea of eating something they choose.
Step Three: Chef Boy-R-Dee
Rope them in to help you run the “restaurant”—even one to two days a week. The more you get them involved early on, the more responsibility they can take for their own food and healthy choices. This could look like sitting down once a week to make a grocery list together (and asking them what 2-3 veggies, fruits, proteins and fats they’d like you to get), playing “restaurant” and poising them as the chef for the day and menu planning a few (real food) based meals with them, using the strategy from Step two.
Step Four: Start Small
Overhauling your kids’ diet does NOT have to happen overnight. Think: One step at a time. Start with one meal—such as breakfast—replacing the Fruit Loops with scrambled eggs, organic bacon and an orange, or coconut yogurt, nut-based granola and berries. Or, go for simple swamps: Such as ham rollups instead of a ham sandwich, natural sunflower seed butter over Skippy, or coconut flour tortillas over processed corn or flour tortillas. Scared of an uprising? Just tell them you “ran out,” or that’s what you’re buying now. Eventually they will eat (especially the more you utilize Step 2).
Step Five: Love Their Gut Bugs
The healthier their guts are the more likely they are to like real food. Our gut is home to 100 trillion bacteria—both good and bad. We need more good (healthy) bacteria than bad for overall health, and our gut bacteria are responsible for practically every healthy function in our body (immune system, brain health, digestion, skin health and energy included). Unfortunately, modern times is not set up for gut health success—food dyes, additives, sweeteners and Chic-Fil-A taste good in the moment, but give our gut bugs a “hey day” inside too—making us and our kids crave more junk foods and processed foods to keep the unhealthy gut bacteria happy. A “sneaky” way to get your kids open to the idea of eating real food is to add some (good) gut bugs to the mix—a.k.a. “probiotics and prebiotics.” The #1 supplements I recommend to everyone are these two essentials—more important even than a daily multi vitamin (because if you are NOT digesting your food in the first place, then the vitamin WON’T stick). Incorporate a daily soil-based probiotic supplement and prebiotic fiber, such as partially hydrolyzed guar gum, into their daily routine (Expert Tip: If your kids don’t swallow capsules, sprinkle the probiotic powder into their plain yogurt, smoothie, applesauce, water or avocado pudding).
“SOS! I Don’t Know About This….”
No sweat. I’ve been there, got the t-shirt—multiple times—with parents here in Austin and nationwide—parents desperately longing for their kiddo to just eat ONE BITE of asparagus, or salmon, or anything without artificial food dye, but NOT getting them to budge. As an occupational therapist and nutritionist, I help parents and kids take back their health—together. I offer both one-on-one consulting, as well as a guided program called “Family Fuel,” to support your efforts to make your kids invincible. Contact me at www.drlauryn.com.