Cooper, my 13 year old is having a hard time with the lack of steak being grilled up for JD, him and Dunc right now. He tried to rally JD and Dunc tonight with a meat based rant. Part of it made me sad, but I know that I am doing the right thing. I am not an insane crazy mom trying to torture my kids. I just want them eating healthier and building habits NOW. I read an article by Dr Greger (LOVE him and his Nutritionfacts.org). It related that MANY well done studies indicate that food choices, especially food choices early in life are the primary cause of most chronic diseases and premature death. It is a short powerful read, please check it out: http://www.healthyschoolfood.org/docs/NYCHSF-Nutrition-101-Update-2012.pdf.
The boys still have a turkey sandwich for lunch some days and still have pizza here and there, but when they do, we have a veggie based dinner and instead of eggs for breakfast they have a whole grain cereal and fruit. If I serve up a dinner that includes chicken, it is 4 oz of thinly sliced chicken accompanied by lots of veggies and fruit and maybe some quinoa and a salad. When we go out they eat what they want. I support that. I am educating them, and someday they will make a choice to do whatever they want to do. They are growing and will not do a plant based diet correctly now and I get that. But the junk food is gone and that was a huge hurdle that seems to be crossed.
Coop gravitates to meat every time and though he always eats veggies, he would not call himself a veggie lover. I am willing to guess that most 13 years olds aren't going to deem themselves Mr. or Miss veggie. There seems to be a peer pressure around eating crap like Hot Cheetos and somehow it is not as cool to eat healthy food. Kids ultimately do what you do though, and if you eat more veggies, so will they. People always ask me how I get my kids to eat so many fruit and vegetables and my answer is it's easy, WE eat them. When I ask back, "do you guys eat lots of vegetables and healthy foods" the answer is usually "we do not cook" or "no, we don't eat a lot of veg unless you consider ketchup a vegetable." Um, no, not quite.
Here are some idea of how to get your kids to eat more fruits and veggies:
1. Keep introducing foods over and over. Don't give up! My husband says I am relentless but it works. Except for on him, but that is teaching an old dog new tricks and I am not giving up on that either. They say that kids must try something up to 8 - 10 times before it is acceptable. I'm thinking with husbands that number may be double.
2. Make the food look attractive. For years I would put food out that quite honestly did not look all that appetizing. I started playing around with how I was serving things and lo and behold, the kids were eating more good food.
3. For little kids, call the food cute names. As soon as I started calling carrots "bunny carrots" the kids would eat them.
4. Offer the veggies first. My kids love the idea of an appetizer and honestly they don't really care what it is when they are hungry so broccoli is just fine with them. If there is slightly less on their dinner plate because they already had a big bowl of broccoli so be it.
5. Get chopping and learning. It does take some effort to put out a platter of raw veggies, at least more then pouring out a bag of chips but you get so much in return. While I chop I learn. I pick a TEDx video or 2 and play them on my laptop while I chop. Check out Dr Greger. He has a new health and diet related video out every day. Watch a few of he keynote talks. They are a wealth of research based knowledge and will have you reaching for those whole plant based foods http://nutritionfacts.org
6. Blend the fruit. If you do not have a Vitamix make the investment. My mom got me mine when my 1st son was 1 year old and that thing has been spinning up nutrition for 12 years now. It will liquify anything!!! My older son has a smoothie a few days a week and no matter whether it is strawberry banana, blueberry orange or mango banana it always has a couple of tablespoons of whole flax seeds and some walnuts thrown in and they are undetectable. My younger guy likes sorbet so we make that almost every night. It is super easy to clean which is key when you do so much blending!
7. Make the after school snack fruit and veggies. Kids are ravenous when they get out of school so a plate of fruit and veggies goes over great. Serve with some crunchy whole grain pretzels or crackers and hummus and they will be good until dinner.
8. Take the kids shopping with you and let them pick out their own vegetables to try. Go to a famers market or farm stand and pick the freshest ones as they will taste even better.
9. Don't be afraid to serve the same few veggies if that is all your child likes. Cooper ate only broccoli, carrots and green beans for years and he would have one or all of them every night with dinner. As we kept trying new ones his horizon expanded to red peppers, brussels, roasted kale, lettuce, and we are still going! Dunc has always liked everything and I think that is in part to him cooking with me very early on and being interested in the nutrition.