In order to set long-term healthy eating habits and provide immediate nutrition it is important to feed children nutrient dense foods when they are young. While this isn’t always easy, it is very important in our family. This is a look into how we do our best to promote healthy fun eating habits for our 3 year old child.
Healthy Mindset + Healthy Environment = Healthy Habits
Establishing healthy habits and cultivating a nurturing, healthy environment is key for a child. We have special areas of the kitchen that we set utensils, cups, and bowls within her reach. In the fridge, our three-year-old has a designated spot to find left-over food available whenever she wants it. We encourage her abilities to find and prepare her own food and understand when she needs to eat. We work to give her a sense of self-sufficiency and independence. Aryana, has free range of the kitchen, pantry, and refrigerator. There are no secret spots and nothing to hide from her that we would eat in guilty pleasure. Completely eliminating junk food from our home makes it easy to promote healthy choices.
I prefer to shop for fresh produce at the weekly farmers market. Buying fresh, local foods provides us an opportunity to connect with the local economy where the food comes from. We love knowing how it is grown, and eat seasonal local foods as much as possible.
Our daughter is familiar with the general range of food we buy and knows which stores we support. If she asks for something that we don’t want to buy, so far a simple but “No” has been sufficient. I don’t make a big deal out of “no” foods and I don’t overly explain why we don’t eat them. One day we will discuss pesticides, nutrient deficiencies in mass produced foods, and more but as of yet we have not crossed this bridge. It’s awesome to see so many requests for coaching from families and mothers looking for guidance on healthy lifestyle habits for the whole family – there are many people looking to optimize the health and vitality of their family and we are happy to be able to share our experience and knowledge.
Promoting a Healthy Diet for Kids
We eat very simply and I think because of this Aryana prefers to have mono meals. She isn’t keen on sauces or big mixtures of many spice but instead usually enjoys single food ingredients with a pinch of salt and melted butter.
Protein throughout the day
I prefer to begin the day with some protein and fats. However, sometimes our daughter asks for fruit instead and I do not decline. I trust in her ability to understand what her body wants and when.
Sashimi is the most popular meal. We have access to salmon and Bluefin tuna. Beef heart and raw liver are also common requests. Often, she has a bowl of shrimp, mackerel or meat from the bone broth pot with butter melted on top. Pemmican also makes the list of protein rich foods our little girl enjoys.
Getting a toddler to eat vegetables
Steamed broccoli with butter and a little salt is one of our favorite vegetable dishes. We keep it simple and our child enjoys it.
I make something she calls “roots” which is a mixture of thinly sliced radish, carrot, and beet root along with green cabbage preserved through natural fermentation. This homemade sauerkraut is constantly stocked on our kitchen counter or in the fridge. There was a period of time I sold my homemade sauerkraut at the local juice bar and it was consistently popular with kids, they all seem to like the tangy flavor.
Similar to spreading butter on bread, we apply butter to raw flax crackers. They are full of veggies and fresh herbs making these crackers rich with micronutrients.
Do not underestimate the pleasure to be found in veggie sticks and slices. Celery sticks, cucumber slices, and shredded carrot provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber necessary for a healthy body. They are also very sensory. Their crunchiness and juicy textures are entertaining and nutritious.
I know Aryana gets a good dose of anti-inflammatory, immune supporting herbs, fresh vegetables, local proteins, and healthy fats through out the week, if not every single day.
Tricks to get kids to eat healthy
While I do not have a problem sharing local, organic, seasonal fruits with my daughter, I do not want her eating fruit all day. These fruit binges may serve a purpose but once I start to see her become irritable, short-tempered, and emotional I regulate a bit and encourage her to eat protein rich foods instead.
I find that dairy products are a wonderful food for these moments because they are sweet enough to satisfy but also nutritionally dense to fulfill the body’s needs. Some kids will have sensitivities to dairy and in these cases I suggest first sourcing alternative dairy products from A2 cows like Jersey, Guernsey or other lesser known breeds. If sensitivities continue, try milks and cheeses derived from goats or sheep.
Having raw milk on hand is a special luxury we enjoy a few days a week. Aryana thoroughly enjoys it, drinking at least a pint a day. Yogurts and cheeses are always quickly gobbled down. Homemade yogurt is actually quite easy to make, if you have a proper yogurt culture you can use pasteurized milk and still end up with a nutrient dense, probiotic rich food while saving money on store bought brands.
Of course there are moments when my daughter only asks for sweeter things and I can use these desires as leverage to get her to eat other preferable things like bone broth ,cruciferous vegetables, or what remains of her bowl of unfinished breakfast meat/fish.
No one should be afraid of feeding healthy fats to children. There are many anecdotal stories of kids loving avocados and eating butter by the spoonful. If you do not have your own personal love and appreciation for healthy fats, this might seem unusual but there are many good reasons that children would be craving these foods. Natural healthy fats should not be limited; they are integral to the healthy development of young brains and bodies.
Grass-fed butter, homemade tallow, avocados, and fish are our favorite sources of healthy fats. Occasionally we also enjoy coconut oil, avocado oil, and extra-virgin olive oil added to our food.
At sometime during the morning, for important fat soluble vitamins, our daughter has an MK-7 vitamin with a bit of of butter and one to three fermented cod liver oil capsules.
Healthy Snacks for Kids
In our house there are no snack foods in the form of chips, granola bars, fruit roll-ups etc. Aryana eats many small meals at various times throughout the day, it is hard to say what really constitutes as a snack verses a small meal. The exact number of times she eats depends on our activity and the ratio of protein/fatty foods to carb foods she consumes.
The one little dish that I call a “snack” is a mixture of maca, mesquite, and MCT oil. This is entirely her creation. Sometimes we use this snack to sneak in other adaptogenic herbs if she has congestion or a runny nose.
Aryana also excitedly enjoys various types of clays. Perhaps it is for the high mineral content, but for whatever reason, she chows down bentonite clay, zeolite, and diatomaceous earth.
On our counter next to the maca sits reishi spore oil which Aryana also regularly takes upon request. – mention benefits—Reishi spore oil is a concentrated source of the reishi mushroom, a powerful therapeutic agent from traditional Chinese medicine.
Also out for the taking are chunks of 100% raw cacao, pure dark chocolate. I enjoy eating the cacao plain. Aryana sometime dips pieces in local, raw honey.
Healthy Choices for Eating Out with Kids
This week we have Aryana’s grandparents in town visiting, we are going out to eat in restaurants much more often than usual. Fortunately, eating out has been very simple and easy for us. Ordering protein is easy, everyone has fis, chicken, or meat. I look for food that is steamed or baked rather than fried or sautéed. In Ecuador many restaurants use vegetable or sunflower seed oil, we prefer to avoid the processed hydrogenated oils when possible. If I remember, I ask if they can cook with butter or olive oil. Avocados are not hard to come by so we often get those on the side in slices or as guacamole. If something comes with potatoes or rice, I simply ask for a salad or steamed veggies instead. As a last little extra I can always ask for a side portion of cheese and our little girl will be so happy.
Nutrition matters for you and your children, but it’s just one part of the healthy environment that we establish in our household
Food is just one part of establishing a healthy environment and home – one incredible “trick” we have been using to great affect is minimizing artificial light and using only candles at night to improve melatonin production and synch our circadian rhythms with our local environment.