As you probably well know by now, I’m a fitness professional and nutritional hack. But these aren’t the only hats I wear in this life.
Truth be told, I couldn’t count the number of metaphorical hats I wear around this world even if I wanted to. You see, I’m the type that loves to immerse myself in many different things. Too many, perhaps.
If I attempted to list all of my interests and hobbies, I’m confident in assessing that most of those who would ever be blessed enough to land on this page would click away before I finished spouting them all off. Needless to say, I’ll spare you the details for another day.
Today I’m going to focus on a hat that many of us wear, one that is without a doubt one of the most important. No, I’m not talking about the hat that dons the St. Louis Cardinals logo (though that one is pretty important in my book, as well).
I’m talking about the hat that is known as parenthood.
Parenthood is a blessing, but it’s a blessing that also bears an unconscionable amount of responsibility.
I still remember shuddering at the thought of being responsible for the well being of another human being after learning that my wife was pregnant for the first time more than 6 years ago.
We are now 3 kids into the parenting experience and it’s still a pretty heavy thought, especially with the ever-increasing realization of how profound of an impact my influence is going to have on each of their lives.
How we raise our children shapes what they will ultimately become. We can literally help determine the quality and breadth of influence they will have in this world – and whether or not they will leave this world having made it a better place.
So I try to constantly remind myself to take advantage of every opportunity I have to set them up for success.
One of the many ways I’ve been trying to be more intentional about setting my children up for success is by feeding them with healthy and nutritious foods as often as possible.
This would be a diet most parents would dream up for their kids to eat – and it would be an incredibly healthy one at that.
But kids are stubborn, kids are picky, and kids seem to oftentimes spite our best intentions at getting them to eat healthy by throwing their vegetables on the floor or slipping them to the dog while our backs are turned.
Let’s just be blunt, shall we? Getting our kids to eat healthy can seem like an all out battle of the wills.
If they only knew that we simply desire for them to have a body that is primed for optimizing their cognitive function, fighting off disease, keeping their hearts healthy and preventing them from becoming a statistic in the childhood obesity epidemic.
For now they’re likely to be innocent enough to have little or no ideas about such things. As such, it’s probably best if we preserve their innocence and rely instead on something other than scare tactics to get them to eat their veggies (at least until they celebrate their fifth birthday).
Give Them The Healthy Foods You Want Them To Eat First
This is a lesson I learned through trial and error. Okay, it was mostly error.
My inability to grasp the obvious notwithstanding, I eventually figured out that my kids were much less resistant to eating their fruits and vegetables if I put those in front of them first. Who would’ve thought that when given the choice between a banana and an Oreo that a toddler will inevitably choose the Oreo?
I know, right.
Still, I would bet I’m not the first person to make this mistake. So if you want your kids to get more carrots, broccoli, tomatoes or peas in their diets, start their meals with a plate that only contains these types of nutritious foods.
And be sure you don’t ask them what they want to eat ahead of time. Just give it to them.
Asking them what they would like to eat will only turn their minds to the foods you don’t want them to ask for, all but guaranteeing that plate of healthy food will end up on the floor, in Fido’s mouth, or both.
This is great if you want the healthiest dog on the block; Not so great for having the healthiest kids on the block.
Keep Trying New Options (They Will Like Something)
Another illogical mistake we make as parents is assuming that because we don’t like a certain food our kids won’t like it either.
So we peddle our favorite foods to them and then want to pull our hair out when they don’t immediately take to them. I’ve been trying to get my oldest child to eat my favorite fruit, bananas, for more than 3 years now.
Bananas! It is beyond comprehension to me that anyone wouldn’t enjoy eating a banana, especially someone that shares my DNA.
I don’t care who you are or what your age happens to be. Bananas are awesome. Period. End of story.
Nevertheless, I eventually stopped trying to force my daughter to eat my favorite fruits and allowed her to expand her nutritional horizons. And it turns out the kid actually loves apples, strawberries and carrots almost as much as I love bananas. (I say “almost” because nothing can top my love affair with bananas.)
The point is that your kids may not have the same affinity for certain fruits and veggies that you have. So mix it up a little bit.
There are dozens of different fruits and vegetables for you to choose from. When doing your shopping every week, don’t be afraid to pick up something a little different from the produce section and see if it titillates the taste buds of your little one(s).
If not, give something else a try. You’ll find a healthy food they’ll seem to never get enough of soon enough. It just takes a little variety and patience.
Incidentally, this process may even be beneficial for your own nutrition. I had actually forgotten how much I liked strawberries and carrots.
Now that my daughter makes sure that they’re always present in my fridge, I have made them a staple in my diet as well, snacking on them just about every day.
Don’t Get Too Hung Up On Food Diversity
As you go through the process of finding the healthy foods your kids enjoy, and putting those in front of them first for any given meal, you may only find a handful of nutritious food options that your kids will regularly eat.
Don’t flip out if you feel like they are eating a ton of sweet potatoes, green beans, bananas, apples and pears. If those are the foods they like, pile them on as much as they want to eat them.
The level of nutrition – in the form of vitamins, minerals and other crucial phytonutrients – they will get from these foods is infinitely better than what they’d be receiving from any of the processed foods they’d otherwise be eating, foods that are almost completely devoid of any nutritive substance.
If little Suzie (or little Johnny) is willing to eat what you would consider to be an excessive amount of certain fruits or vegetables, but it keeps her away from the Oreos, cereals and chicken nuggets, let her gorge on her favorite whole foods to her little heart’s content.
The more nutritious whole foods your kids ultimately eat, the better off they will be, irrespective of whether this comes in the form of one food or ten. They will get sick less often, learn faster, sleep better, have more energy (I know… Like they need any more of that) and will exponentially decrease the likelihood that they will become obese, develop cancer, experience depression or develop myriad other conditions we all want to protect our kids from.
I want to make clear here that I’m not downplaying the nutritional importance of receiving a variety of nutrients from many different sources. Of course I would acknowledge that the greater the variety you can integrate into your diet (or your kids’ diets), the better.
The fact remains, however, that children around the world are being fed diets that are nutritionally bankrupt. Their bodies are being filled with processed foods containing ingredients that are more inclined to snuff out life than they are to sustain or invigorate it.
If it takes 5 mangos a day to wean your child off of these addictive, disease-inducing foods, so be it. You can work on adding in greater variety as you go.
Your utmost priority should be feeding your kids the nutrition they need to thrive. And this has to come by replacing their processed foods with healthy, nutritious whole food options – even if variety may be somewhat limited at first.
By the way, my youngest child, Camden, loves swiping drinks from my wife’s greens supplement drinks. So, if you’re supplementing with a whole food sourced greens supplement – as I believe everybody should – try giving your kids a sip to see if they like it.
A few sips on some Athletic Greens every day will go a long way towards making sure you and your kids have every nutritional gap filled.
Your Kids Want To Eat Healthy…They Just Don’t Know It
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Not my kid, Craig!”
I assure you that your children have been designed similarly to mine in that their bodies crave the nutrition they need to function optimally.
Unfortunately, kids and adults alike are not in tune with their bodies enough to recognize that what they think is a craving for potato chips, could be better satisfied by eating nutritious foods like raw almonds, broccoli or a heaping salad.
Kids are the same way. They feel a food craving and immediately start persuading their parentals to break open the package of Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies. If mom doesn’t give them the answer they want, those persistent little boogers will proceed by sneaking over to dad to see if he will give them a more favorable response.
(For you fellow fathers, the response is ALWAYS: “What did your mother say?”)
Kids simply don’t know that those cookies could never actually contain whatever it is their bodies are yearning for. While they may be psychologically craving the HFCS or artificial sugars they contain, I assure you their bodies aren’t craving these kinds of foods that are chock full of artificial ingredients out of biological instinct.
It’s either being done out habit, chemical dependence, or both. Either way, they need to be broken of this condition.
You have to teach them that whole foods work
just as well better at satisfying their hunger cravings.
My kids still default to pouting their lips and requesting snack cakes with the cutest propositions imaginable. But, now, when I tell them they need to pick something else, it’s usually followed by me breaking out the organic strawberries, apples, bananas and tomatoes.
With a little strategery, some messy floors, a fatter family dog, and a whole lot of love and patience, you’ll get there, too. At that point, having a healthy-eating child will make any and all sacrifices and struggles it took to get there pale in comparison.
Besides, as any loving parent will agree, the alternative simply isn’t an option.