Most every Mama desires to change up their child’s diet in one way or another. The question is how do you do that without tears, tantrums, and frustration. The good news is it can be done! Here are a few simple tips and some encouragement for how to change your child’s diet!
Whether you are a crunchy granola Mama or a pop-tarts in the drop off line Mama, we all care about our children’s health and nutrition. The thing is sometimes we don’t know how to act upon that care.
And who can blame us?
There are micro plastics being found in almost all breastmilk. Plants are full of toxins and animal products are blamed for obesity. There is a wealth of conflicting information. And should you actually create a healthy meal, you probably cooked it in a toxic pan and reheated in the microwave and killed all that good nutrition.
No wonder Mamas are burnt out trying and dialing up Domino’s every night.
Where do we start and how do we know what is true from what is diet-culture hype? And how do we change up our child’s diet without tears or tantrums?
There is good news, as always. You can embrace a healthier lifestyle and you can go as quickly or as slowly as you want to! But it all starts here- with small steps!
Truth vs. A Mountain of Hype
Health is, unfortunately, an industry, and just like any other industry, the goal is to market to the masses to turn up a profit.
Every big name in the health industry has supposedly found the cure. The cure to obesity, diabetes, heart disease- if you want to be fit, healthy, and happy-full of energy and zero brain fog- just buy this product, start this class, join this group. For years Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and Nutrisystem ruled this industry. Until a new player came on the scene- social media.
Nutrisystem could only dream of being as big of a craze as avocado toast or the keto diet.
Suddenly we all live in a vacuum where all the information is heavily conflicting. Vegetables are full of toxins, meat makes you obese, probiotics are the answer to everything and on and on it goes.
But what is the truth?
What does real health actually look like?
I can’t answer that entirely, but I can offer a few simple tips:
- Health is a lifelong journey, not a destination. Our health needs change over time. And all of us live in different bodies. Our diets can and will change over our life time and so will our children’s. The goal is to promote healthy lifestyles and a love for nutrient rich food- and that may look different with each passing season.
- Nutrient Dense Food is always healthy. Rather than following the fads of flax seeds and avocado oil- know your foods. Learn what is in the things you are consuming. Be it meat, eggs, vegetables, or butter- knowing the breakdown of vitamins, minerals and nutrients in your foods helps you navigate a healthier diet without being swayed by the rising tides of fads and faulty research.
- Real food will always trump supplements. This is not to hate on supplements, many of them can help fill gaps in our diets, but the nutrients naturally occurring in food are more bioavailable than the synthetic/derived versions found in a capsule.
- Time Tested. Remember a few years ago when eggs were suddenly labeled unhealthy and everyone stopped eating them? Then, suddenly it was backtracked and confirmed that eggs were essentially a bioavailable multivitamin. The foods that have stood the test of time- the foods that God has created- those are good foods. Period.
- Quality Matters. There is a difference between a pasture raised egg and eggs from crowded farms where chickens are fed soy and corn non-stop. Quality matters. Words like Organic or Local do actually matter- especially on products like wheat where glyphosate (Round-up) can be heavily present.
Mamas the absolute best way to determine what is or isn’t healthy is to do your own research. What I have found to be true is that most paths to true health just make sense. Real health isn’t instant and it doesn’t always promise a quick fix. It may take a lot of paths to finally get to a place where you feel comfortable with your family’s diet, but we will all get there:
One Step at a Time
With wisdom comes sorrow. The first time I ever read that in Ecclesiastes, I thought surely I had a bad translation. But no that is actually what it says:
For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief. (Ecclesiastes 1: 17-18).
That really didn’t seem right to me at the time, but the more I learn the more I realize how true that is!
We live in a world full of toxins- even most of our drinking water is contaminated. That is a sorrowful bit of wisdom and with it comes a mindset shift in one direction or another. As Mamas we can either say “Okay, I will do all I can to promote health for my family” or we say “I can’t protect them from everything, so why even try.”
The truth is we all feel a little of both of those mindsets from time to time- because with wisdom comes sorrow.
Have you ever set out to save money without a plan in place?
I certainly have. And it did not go well.
The thing is if you don’t happen to things, they happen to you.
Most people don’t become millionaires by accident. Most people don’t acquire a six pack of abs by accident. Instead, they set a goal, lay out a plan, and take small steps to get there.
Health is no different.
Small steps are the key to nearly every goal you want to accomplish in life.
Just like how you swallow an elephant one bite at a time- you change your family’s health the same way- one bite at a time.
So How do You Change Your Child’s Diet?
Where should you start?
We have all asked ourselves that a million times.
For some of us we have ‘started’ over and over without ever really succeeding. I’ve been there, done that. I tried the small steps, the big leaps, the all out flips, and the complete overhaul before I finally found the plan that worked for us.
And guess what?
It wasn’t a recipe, a plan, or a health scare that finally achieved progress.
It was a simple mindset shift.
The absolute best place to start is in your own head!
When your mindset towards health is focused more on what you are giving up than what you are gaining. When you think things like “Why does everything that tastes good have to be bad for me?” And when you are more concerned about what your children may be missing out on at birthday parties and get togethers than you are concerned about what a bad diet is doing to their bodies- you have set yourself up to fail.
We have all done it.
And it is understandable.
But food is essential.
It is day in, day out, multiple times a day. It isn’t a set it and forget it kind of goal- it is a change to your entire lifestyle. One which will only happen if you can shift your mindset into believing that better choices are actually better and worth it!
“My Kid is the Pickiest Eater Alive!”
If you don’t have ‘that’ kid, you know ‘that’ kid.
To the Mama of the picky eater, here are a few ideas to hopefully get you started in a better and brighter direction.
- Check Their Zinc Levels. This may seem a bit odd, but zinc has a massive impact on how food tastes! Zinc has a really key role in the maintenance of our taste buds, so when zinc is low- food tastes off. This may or may not play a role in your child’s picky eating, but it is a good place to start since a zinc deficiency can lead to other health issues! (You can also check for tongue or lip ties, sensory issues, or iron deficiencies. Often times we look to food as the problem when picky eating may actually be a symptom of another issue.)
- Keep It Routine. Keeping meal times, plans, and menus similar and familiar can help with picky eating. Some kids get overstimulated easily and if eating is already a chore adding chaos to the picture isn’t helping your child or you!
- Keep it Simple. Sometimes simple is best. I like to utilize spices and herbs when I cook, but what I think is improving a dish is often off-putting to my pickier children.
- Give them a place at the table. I don’t mean a particular seat, though they probably have one. Instead really include them in meal time. Let them help with the cooking, prepping, and planning of meals. Include foods they like and encourage them to taste even the things they think they don’t like. Keep it stress free, talk about where the food came from and why we should enjoy it and then give them space to explore it for themselves without discipline, rewards, or prying eyes.
- Don’t Blame Yourself. Your child is not a picky eater because you introduced foods wrong or because your breastfeeding journey didn’t go as planned. Some kids are just picky eaters and there is nothing you did or didn’t do to cause that.
Here Are 5 Steps for How To Change Your Child’s Diet- Without Tears or Tantrums!
1. Ditch the Dyes
When did we decide that everything needed to be unnaturally colored?
Cheese wasn’t yellow enough, sauces weren’t a vibrant enough red, and sauerkraut should for some reason still look like green cabbage even after fermentation.
And it wasn’t enough to color food naturally with things like turmeric or beets- no, we needed brightly colored food produced in labs rather than gardens.
But where have all of these synthetic dyes gotten us?
When Isaiah was about 4 he used to go through these random bouts of chaos. Overall he was a very calm little boy, but every now and then we would really hit a time of struggle. I thought he was overstimulated or perhaps he was battling something emotionally. Until I read about dyes and how children can be misdiagnosed with ADHD or ADD when in reality dyes are the problem. We cut them out and Viola!- he was back to his normal self.
Dyes are essentially neurotoxins that have been linked to everything from behavioral issues to cancers. The thing about cutting out dyes is dyes are almost always present in the most processed, sugary, and demineralizing foods. So cutting them out is good all around- even if you aren’t seeing immediate effects from them.
So How do you Ditch them?
There is so much good news on this front! Because of Mamas- just like you– there is a growing movement in the food industry to move away from synthetic dyes.
Many countries have banned them altogether!
In the meantime, dyes are an easy thing to spot on food labels. They aren’t hidden under clever names like so many other harmful ingredients and they usually appear towards the end of the food label. They will read as a color followed by a number. (Red 40, Yellow 7, Blue 3, etc.) The tricky thing is you must actually look at the label. Even some white cream cheese icing has red 40 in it. I have even seen coleslaw and pickles with blue and yellow dyes added in to create a greener look.
When you find this color and number on the label, simply put it back on the shelf without a second thought.
I know what you’re thinking “What about when my kid is convulsing in the floor of the check out line because they want Skittles?”
In our home we have a handful of personalities and what works best for one kid, doesn’t suit the other.
With Isaiah, explaining why dyes were bad for us was enough for him to decide he didn’t want them.
For Iris, I simply have to be blunt, say “no” and ignore her tantrum from that point forward.
With Ivy, I can usually distract her with a promise of something better when we get home.
This may take some trial and error, but the main thing is- if you as Mama and keeper of the money have resolved to not buy dyes then they will not leave the store with you no matter how hard your kid screams. You aren’t the first mama in line with a screaming kid, and I promise- you won’t be the last.
2. Focus on the Foods they love, not the ones they hate
Diversity on our plates is a beautiful thing, but it isn’t always a reality.
I think grass-fed butter is one of the purest and most beautiful foods we can eat (learn why here) and yet one of my sweet girls constantly turns up her nose at it. And don’t get me started over the controversy in our household over organ meats.
Rather than forcing them to enjoy a food they don’t want to eat, I try to focus on the things they actually enjoy.
Real food tastes good- it is supposed to- that’s the way God made it.
But even as adults, we don’t all enjoy the same foods just because they are good for us.
Instead we know if we prefer an arugula and spinach salad over kale, and we eat what we like.
Feed your kids the healthy foods they actually enjoy eating. It is so easy for us as Mamas to focus on everything that isn’t going right that sometimes we miss the simple wins right in front of us. If your child likes scrambled eggs- that is wonderful! Feed them a high quality pastured egg- maybe top it with a mineral salt and pat yourself on the back- don’t get hung up on the carrots or smoothies they won’t touch!
3. Make Simple Swaps a Little at a Time
Some healthy swaps are so simple and similar our kids don’t even notice them- like pure maple syrup instead of the high fructose pancake syrup in the cereal aisle. Changing your child’s diet should naturally be without tears for both of you, and the best way to get there is with small swaps a little at a time. For one, healthy eating can feel pricey at first- especially if you throw out your entire pantry and start anew. Don’t do that- as you run out of something- switch to something better. Here are a few simple swap ideas to get you started:
|Table Sugar||Honey/Maple Syrup|
|Yoplait Yogurt||Organic Plain/Vanilla Yogurt (with live cultures)|
|White Bread||Whole Grain or a real sourdough|
|Seed Oils (Canola, Sunflower, Vegetable, etc)||Butter, Tallow, Coconut, or Olive Oils|
|Processed Snacks||Whole Foods, Fruits, or Cheese|
|Kraft Mac and Cheese||Annie’s Organic Shells and Cheese or Homemade|
|Plain or Iodized salt||Mineral Salt (like Redmond Real or Celtic)|
|Uncrustables||Whole Grain bread, Real Peanut Butter, and local Jelly|
|Lunchables||Cheese, Sandwich meat, and homemade crackers|
Simple steps, one step at a time, make all the difference in the world!
4. Water It Down
I get so many sideways glances when people see me fill my kids sippy cups. At this point their drinks are basically all water with a literal couple of drops of juice (under an ounce).
Because I was that Mama standing teary eyed at the dentist while learning that her children’s teeth were in horrible condition.
I have vowed to never be that Mom again and if I can save one Mama from feeling the way I felt that day by cutting out gummy vitamins and cutting back juice- then I want to do that.
For my littles it was easy- we skip juice all together for the most part. But for my older kids- with the pitiful teeth- it has been an up hill battle.
I started cold turkey- and goodness was that a mess. They were guzzling juice boxes in church and begging for it every single moment of the day. I had always watered their juice down slightly so I decided to do it bit by bit. It wasn’t long until Isaiah decided to only drink water and he never even wants juice anymore.
Iris, on the other hand, still likes her splash of 100% juice in her water from time to time and that is okay- because we are making progress everyday!
5. Be Their Example
This is the simplest and most productive step. Kids feel big emotions. And so do we. Especially when it comes to food. Rather than slouching at the dinner table and turning up your nose- embrace this with them!
If you want them to drink more water, drink water.
If you want them to eat a healthy meal, eat it with them.
As Mamas we own the kitchen cupboards, if you don’t want it eaten in your home- don’t bring it into your home.
Talk openly with your littles about health, healthy eating, and well being.
Get outside with them and be active in their lives.
Learn where your food comes from, grow it together or visit a farm.
Figure out how your body digests food and eat accordingly.
This is where real health starts and it really is beautiful.
You are the main voice they hear, so when you speak of beautiful, rich, healthy foods- they will too. They will reflect you and your thoughts towards healthy living.
A Broken Food System
We live in a really unhealthy generation. The Industrial Revolution changed the relationship we had with food. Before that, most people lived on farms. They knew where their milk came from and the food that the cow had eaten in order to produce that milk.
They gathered their eggs fresh each day and grew their gardens to preserve for the winter. Sourdough starters were passed down from generation to generation. Sure previous generations had their own adversity- no antibiotics, and poor hygiene in many ways- but they knew their food.
We, on the other hand, amongst a plethora of doctors, specialists, treatments, and medications- have no real grasp on holistic health or where our food comes from.
We treat Cheese balls and carrot sticks as one in the same.
There is no greater image of the progression of this wreckage than Wonder bread. When Wonder bread came on the scene in 1921, they had found a way to achieve the fluffiest, freshest, pre-cut bread known to man. The problem? The process in which they milled their grains removed all vitamins and minerals. The result was a beautiful loaf of bread with absolutely no nutritional value. Anemia and pellagra began to plague the nation.
So Wonder bread returned to whole grains, right? They went back to the drawing board and started fresh- with beautiful ancient grains and new techniques for achieving the ideal bread? Nope.
We were too advanced to do anything like that, so instead we added artificial, synthetic, and man made vitamins back into the bread and pretended that now it was healthy.
Follow nearly any processed food back far enough and you will find a similar story. We improved it and made it better- and we killed the natural beauty and our health in the process.
Hope for Health
So how do we move forward?
In a pandemic of deficiencies, neurological disorders, cancers, and a declining life expectancy.
Amongst micro plastics and Teflon- food dyes and high fructose corn syrup- where is the hope for the health of our children or future grandchildren?
It’s right here.
This is the good news, Mamas. You are here for such a time as this. And while we may not have the force of an Industrial Revolution or the billions of dollars the food industry possesses, we have something better and something much more powerful.
We have a reason above all reasons: for our children.
No one is more determined, more powerful, or more unshakable than a Mama fighting for the life and wellbeing of her children.
It may seem overwhelming to change their diet at times, but with each healthy meal you carry over the table- with every bite they take- you are changing the world.
There is hope for a healthier generation. And it starts with you.
Happy Healthy Eating!
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