This is from Jenna D. in Grabill, Indiana, a runner up in our contest looking for great ideas to share about raising veggie-loving kids!
I’m really excited about this topic because I’m always looking for more ways to encourage my 4 kiddos to eat right. Here are some things I’ve found to really help:
The WHY: Teaching the why behind eating right has helped my older boys (twin 11-year-olds) to understand why we’re “different” (as they say) than other folks. They have enjoyed coming home to tell me all about their health teacher who is teaching the “wrong” things about the food pyramid, etc. It helps them feel empowered and knowledgeable. Kids certainly like that feeling—who doesn’t?
In addition, I try to point out how little they get sick, and when there are other health struggles with their friends/family members, we again point out the why: trying really hard not to be judgmental but more “detective-minded,” we often try to deduce the reasons behind those struggles and how it might have been prevented.
In addition, I try to sneak in as many “health lessons” as possible that aren’t during dinner prep or table eating (they expect it then, and are more ready to fight me on it). I was the Cub Master when my boys were in Cub Scouts, so you better believe I taught about health whenever I got the chance (sugar, HFCS, Artificial colorings/flavorings and hydrogenation being my main targets).
They take it better when their friends are in on it–they don’t feel so personally attacked. When their friends think it’s “cool” (to be healthy) or “gross” (the number of teaspoons of sugar in a soda) they’re more likely to think twice about Mom’s freakishly healthy habits.
Or, when I know they’re coming home from school, I might have a cool article/news report I want to share with them from the internet or whatever. I start re-reading it when they walk in and they’re bound to ask me about it. In addition, I’ve YouTube’d many a gross thing to show them (the making of white bread, hot dogs, effects of aspartame, what happens when you pour soda on pork, etc.).
Also, the older they get, the more I’ve tried to instill a “how-does-it-make-you-feel” awareness in them (brainwashing at its finest). I’ve been surprised on more than one occasion when a child has said no to something because it was making them feel gross. Lastly, I try to push it in deep. I do all of this, why? Because I LOVE them and care too much to let them ruin their health!
The WHEN: The sooner whole/raw/fermented, etc. foods are introduced, the easier it is down the road. That “aha moment” came for me when I was a young 20 yr old in Taiwan watching a toddler eat mini raw fish–eyeballs, bones and all–like it was candy. I thought to myself, “If that kid can eat eyeballs, mine can surely eat Brussels sprouts.” It’s all about the way that they’re presented, and how consistently I do it. The kids (and hubby) have heard me say several times that it takes the average taste bud 7-10 times to know if it really likes something. After that, I’m more open to listening to your strong dislikes. (No “hating” of the healthy goods around this place is allowed, too strong of a word!)
[Note from Robyn: we were not allowed to use the word “hate” at the dinner table, either, in the home I grew up in. I implemented this rule for my children, too, as I don’t want my children using such harsh and negative language in other places outside my home where the person responsible for offering their love, via food, might be hurt or offended. My brothers used to use a faux British accent to make their opinions known, in the language my mother recommended to replace that too-strong sentiment: “I don’t care for this dish!” It got a lot of laughs.]