March is National Nutrition Month. Who knew?
I don’t want to go overboard-crazy on nutrition and healthy food with my kids, but I think it’s important to be vigilant in a world where our food is more and more processed and less and less whole.
For reals, we don’t count calories and we can sometimes be seen at a drive-thru restaurant.
Here’s a bit about how I teach my boys healthy eating habits (and get them to eat good food). It’s what works for us.
Teaching Kids About Healthy Eating & Nutrition
I teach them how to read nutrition labels. This has become a fun thing for them: comparing this box of crackers to that box of dried fruit. It’s their own little competition, and they learn about the breakdown of foods and words like “carbohydrates” and “polyunsaturated fats.” I make sure they understand that the front of the box is actually marketing, not nutrition.
We talk about nutrition. They know donuts aren’t healthy, and they know apples are.
I serve small portions of healthy food that isn’t necessarily their favorite. For example, my boys eat salad fairly well, but not always. Sometimes I include a small portion and dance it up with sunflower seeds and raisins for natural sweet and protein. Last time, I added a small sprig of red cabbage…just to get them started. I assured them they would not die from eating it.
We grow a little food. Ours is a humble garden. H-U-M-B-L-E, I say. But it shows the boys the healthiest, purest form of food, and the work it takes to grow it. And keep the deer from eating it.
I make very few casseroles. Casseroles are filled with…fillers: canned food and dressing and gravy-like ingredients that add unnecessary fat and calories to food. We do a lot of sides like sugar snap peas, carrots, apple slices, and green beans: the whole foods. And yep, these are low-maintenance foods that need little or no cooking.
We shop the farmers market in season. Here they can meet farmers and local growers who really know about how food and see where their food comes from.
I have them help with meals. The more they learn how to do it, the more likely it is they’ll discover how good homemade food can be (including cookies and snacks), and they’ll learn their way around a kitchen. We’re making progress: my oldest can scramble eggs and make pancakes, There are days when I kick everyone out I can cook in peace. 🙂
Water is our default drink. Very little juice, occasional sips of Coke or Root Beer, a little bit of milk, a little bit of tea. Water is 90% of their liquid intake, a habit I hope remains with them into adulthood.
I build on what they like. Hamburgers? Yes (with some greens and tomatoes and slivered almonds inside).
I try and model good nutrition. Fries, chips & queso, Junior Mints and other such foods: these things are the exception, not the norm, and not even eaten in moderation. I rarely eat dessert and they see me guzzling water all the day. Their eyes are watching me. And when they’re not, well, I sneak a few fries.