As parents, we all want to ensure that our children get the best nutrition possible to help them grow and thrive. However, finding the time and energy to cook healthy meals can be challenging, especially if you have a busy schedule or are picky eaters.
As a health coach, I have been providing Key Biscayne residents with The Family Kitchen program through classes at the Key Biscayne Presbyterian School. With the many great questions that arise, most parents face the same challenges. Here are the top five questions being asked:
1. “Don’t I need to make sure my kids are eating a variety of foods?”
Keep It Simple: Don’t feel like you need to create elaborate meals every night. Simple meals, like grilled chicken with roasted vegetables, is the key. Your goal…good quality protein with a fruit, or vegetable, at every meal and snack. Remember, the only person getting bored with your child’s food is you. Think out of the box, if your child wants leftovers from last night’s dinner, or rice and beans, for breakfast, great. It’s a much better choice than processed cereal or a quick meal alternative.
2. “My child won’t eat, the only thing they eat is mac and cheese, what do I do?”
Every food choice that you provide to your children creates their foundation of health and flavour. Certain foods digest and metabolize as sugar. These include sugar, flour, and dairy. When your child eats more processed carbohydrates than fruits or vegetables, sugar addiction can ignite. To stabilize energy, health, and immune function, food choices should start with quality protein and fat, combined with fruits and vegetables, leaving processed food items as the occasional snack. If you have started your child with too many processed foods, it’s never too late to backtrack, it simply requires patience. The key is to go back slowly. Start by implementing a favorite fruit, hiding vegetables mixed into a main meal, and slowly removing the processed items from the kitchen together.
3. “My kids are picky eaters; we have fights about food all of the time.”
Involve Your Children: Engage your children in the food preparation process by having them help with simple tasks like washing vegetables or stirring a pot. For your older ones, have them choose the recipe, chop and cook. This could be a messy endeavor, but this typically enhances their love of healthy foods and leads them to college as a student who can cook. Dealing with the mess and challenges are small prices to pay for giving your children the ability to cook and experiment with flavors.
4. “I feel like I have to cook a different meal for each member of my household, is there an easier way?”
All families have a variety of favorites that can hurt or help with a meal plan. Plan Ahead: Planning your meals in advance can help you save time and ensure that your family eats well. Take some time each week to plan out your meals and make a grocery list to ensure that you have all the necessary ingredients on hand. When planning a meal, two protein options, in conjunction with a few vegetables can create different meals for different people, all at the same sitting. Here’s an example: roasted chicken, rice and beans, roasted brussel sprouts, and salad. Also, make extras that can transform into another meal, another day.
5. “My kids always need snacks; I don’t want my kids to eat chips all day.”
We, the parents, created the definition of several commonly used words that relate to food. “Snacks” is one of them. A snack is something you eat to hold you over until the next meal. An apple with almond butter is a snack, so is hummus and carrots. We teach this to our children; the true objective is about highlighting healthier options as opposed to packaged junk. Then make sure they are readily available, and at arms reach in both the refrigerator and pantry.
Don’t give up or give in, hold on strong. Your children will not starve, they will argue, fuss and complain. In the end, with the right coxing and patience, you can redirect in a healthier direction. Keep offering healthy options and continue to expose your child to new foods, flavors and recipes. Feeding your children healthy meals doesn’t have to be complicated. By keeping it simple, getting creative, involving your children, making a plan, offering healthy snacks, and not giving up, you can help ensure that your children get the nutrition they need for a strong and long-lasting health foundation.
Adita Yrizarry-Lang is a “SuperPower” aficionado and mother of two. Adita’s mission is to encourage individuals to live inspired. For more information and to learn more about Adita, visit www.aditalang.com.