First it’s this question, “What should I feed my kids?” And then this one, “What do YOU feed your kids?” Truthfully, by the time I had my own children I had been a nanny for over 14 years and had been through my share of he-won’t-eat-this-and-she-won’t-touch-that.
In 2007 I was nannying for a functional medicine doctor. She asked me how I knew what to feed her children. She said I nailed it every time when getting her kids to eat when they were in my care. There’s always the part where I’m not THEIR mama. That always helps. The other part is through a lot of trial and error, and YEARS of caring for other people’s children, building a rapport with kiddos is really easy for me … even when it comes to food.
This mama was just like all of us: we go out and do good in the world, then get home and throw whatever is in the fridge at our kids and call it dinner. I’ve got a couple ideas for those times when we are short on time, short on money, or short on both. And let’s be honest, we’re moms and we’re never short on good intentions, so check out these tips for when it comes to the big question: What should I feed my kids?
Tip #1: Don’t feed them something you wouldn’t eat yourself
Let’s face it. You may actually want those chicken nuggets or that microwave burrito. Wanting it and knowing whether it’s good for you are two different things. If you want them to eat their vegetables, be the change you wish to see in the world, mama, and eat your veggies, too. If you want them to light up when you place a plate of grilled chicken, roasted asparagus, and smashed potatoes in front of them, then you need to be thrilled about it, too.
If you don’t want them to eat cereal, don’t let them catch you eating a salad sized bowl of Fruit Loops after they’ve gone to bed from a box of cereal they didn’t know was in the house. BUSTED.
Tip #2: There’s no such thing as “kid food”
“Kid food” is a complete joke in my book. It’s a marketing ploy to get parents to spend all kinds of money on frankenfoods that have none (or next to) no nutritional value. I saw a meme once that said Stop Feeding them CRAP (Convenient-Refined-Additives-Processed). It’s a great acronym to remember.
Kids will typically eat whatever their parents are eating. Littles can eat ribs; just pull off the meat and cut it into smaller bites. They can eat salad, just chop it up. Soup is easy to serve littles by pouring the broth off the top, allowing them to drink it up, or by scooping out the broth infused veggies and meat. If they’re around a year or two, puree and let them drink it out of a silicone squeeze pouch like this.
There’s no need to serve mac’n’cheese three nights a week because it’s all they will eat — it’s all they will eat because it’s all they are served (in most cases). You have to be the cause for creativity with your children’s palates.
Feed them real whole foods, right from the beginning, and they will eat a wide variety of foods as they grow.
Tip #3: Make them a part of the process
Time and time again I have seen the advantages of making children a part of the process. From planning to shopping to gardening to the farmers market to the dining ware they are eating from — they are 100 times more on board when their voice matters and they get a say in how things go.
Allow them to pick out the seed packets that look fun to them while planning your garden.
Allow them to pick out three fruits from the grocery store when you go.
Ask them to pick out as many purple vegetables as they can find from the farmers market, bring them home, and try them together — in different ways: roasted, steamed, raw, juiced, etc.
What meat do they like best and what night of the week would they like it?
Allow a kids night once per week where the menu is planned by them. If they ask for mac’n’cheese and hot dogs it doesn’t have to be Kraft from a box and Oscar Mayer. One box of gluten free pasta, some organic cheese (or nutritional yeast and butter if you can’t do cheese), a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, and a package of Applegate Farms all beef hot dogs or hot dogs from your local grass-fed farm, and you’re good to go. It’s a grown up version of comfort food that everyone will enjoy.
If Susie loves her pink plate, then allow her a pink plate for dedicated meals/meal times. It won’t turn into needing the pink plate for every meal, and you’ll be the good guy because the plate will actually be clean when needed. The pink plate gets used for Saturday lunch and Wednesday dinner, and Susie will be excited to clean it off.
These are just three tips to making it easier to decide what to feed your kids. If you’re questioning what to feed your kids from a food intolerance/sensitivity perspective, then look into Nutrition Response Testing so we can best guide you.