How To Get Your Kids To Eat Healthy {a guest post}

I met Lydia of Divine Health from the Inside Out last year at the Wise Traditions Conference in nearby King of Prussia, PA. We made fast friends and have kept in touch ever since. Since I’m going away this weekend and have been pretty much swamped with work-related projects, she agreed to write a guest post about her experience getting her boys to eat a nutritious diet, and basically to offer encouragement to all you moms out there reading my blog who are striving to give your kids the best chance at a life of health and wellness. After all, that’s what we all want for our kids, right? I trust you will make her feel welcome! Then be sure to check out her blog for lots of nutritious (and gluten free!) recipes that your family will love. So. Without further ado.

Meet Lydia, author of Divine Health from the Inside Out

Motherhood is a challenging feat alone. Add to that being a single mother of four boys, and you’ve got yourself quite an undertaking. That, however, is my life!

Day in and day out, I am going it alone to raise my boys as best I know how. One of my biggest feats is nurturing them in body and soul. Kids need lots of love in many forms, not to mention some good boundaries and structure set in place. It took me quite some time to create that for my kids (and of course it’s an ongoing affair, a never ending work in progress). Now that I have, things are a bit more manageable. (Sorry I wish I could say things are smooth sailing, but I think we all know life just isn’t like that.) Parenting and raising kids is a journey, not a destination. It will always ebb and flow quite like the tide!

One of my biggest passions is feeding my children a wholesome, nourishing diet in order to benefit their overall health. It is my daily goal to equip them as best as possible to face their day by making sure I know what goes into their growing bodies. I find it to be one of my greatest joys, as well as one of the biggest fights of my life and theirs. A joy in the sense that when they are nourished, I can see it in their demeanors and overall health. A battle in the sense that I have to fight hard in this day of misinformation accumulated over decades only to offer nothing but complete nutrient-devoid garbage that passes as food. This bombardment faces my impressionable kids at every turn. Every time they step foot out of this home, they are faced with less than par food options with which to feed their hungry bellies and eager eyes.

I know I am not the only mom out there who is disheartened by this conundrum. I know there are those out there who fight this same daily battle. I also know there are those who are overwhelmed in the midst of such a complicated state of affairs and have no idea how to begin or continue the battle to raise healthy children.

How do you parent your kids when it comes to making good food choices outside of your four walls? How do you protect them? Surely there are many approaches to this question, but one that stands the test of time is this:  model the life you want them to have. And, teach, teach, teach!

I know when I started out on my real food journey ( I really always believed in real food, but this was a radical time that I ditched processed foods completely never to look back), I wanted to make so many changes, and I was on high alert and a bit overwhelmed at how I would keep them from eating junk. In retrospect, we have come a long way, and I have seen my kids mature in so many ways in regards to how they view food. I too have relaxed and learned how to take it all one day at a time. I want others to know there is hope that your kids too will eat those healing foods and not lose heart.

We are up against a mighty giant when it comes to what goes in our kids’ minds. There are commercials, candy-lined store shelves, parties to go to, school events and friends influence all with the mentality or mindset that if it looks good or tastes good, then by all means have some. The brainwashing starts young and never relents. Our influence is of no small matter though. We must train them up in the way they should go and give them some solid roots as they face this world of convenience at the cost of health. We have far more influence over their mentalities than we realize. I think it was designed that way for a reason!

What I have done over the past few years is simply made changes over time. First I stopped buying all processed foods on a regular basis and only offered real whole foods. At the time, the kids would ask ‘where are the pretzels’ or the this or that, and I would simply say that ‘mommy isn’t going to buy that stuff anymore’.

Yes, they balked a bit, but when they were hungry they had no choice but to eat the healthy foods I had on hand. Eventually, this all became old hat to them, and they now know no other way. I do have a few store bought items that I find are okay that I buy from time to time, such as a certain brands of ice cream, a certain type of potato chips, some Larabars here and there.

I also slowly switched over to gluten free, and for the most part, my kids only get some true sourdough bread and sprouted grain bread. At birthdays I come up with a healthier cake recipe, at holidays I find ways each time reduce the junk that comes at them. And each time they are more open to it, because they just know that’s how it goes.

So to all the parents diving into this real food journey, hang in there, and take it one day at a time. Your kids will fight you, so expect it, but you will win, because you have to, right?! It’s not gonna be an overnight thing, and it’s not going to be easy, but if you have your resolve and know that this fight is for their very health, you will be able to stand firm.

Here are some basic concepts/steps to help you as you journey through the day to day, making your best efforts to nourish your children in this modern day.

Tips For Getting Kids To Eat Healthy

real food

1. Get yourself on the right path first. This will give you the resolve to fight for your kids too and not give up when all the whining and complaning sets in. You know what they say, ‘if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.’  This is so true, because when you are at your best, you can give your best. Don’t feel selfish focusing on your own health first. It will also help if you can model it for them!

2. Take it one day at a time and never look back. Find those few store bought items you can go to when life gets busy, and it will now seem like a huge treat to your kids rather than all they know. Remember that it took you years and even generations to get to the state of ill health or even just the state of understanding regarding food, it will take time to overhaul your kitchens and rearrange your life in regards to shopping, menu planning and feeding your family.

3. Reflect on your journey every now and then rather than focus on how far you have to go. Think about how much you have accomplished rather than what you still want to see take place. This will only encourage you to keep at it rather than throw in the towel.

4. Realize it will take time to win over friends, family and outside influences when it comes to feeding your kids healthy, and sometimes you may not win so be prepared to let it go. There will be times you will have to bite your lip and let things go. There will be times when you should fight. Learning when those times are will become more clear to you as you trek further and further along on this journey. Just remember you can’t turn a big ship quickly, but slowly over time you can make an impact. Start by training your kids to know the best choices they have when they go to school, friend’s houses, parties and so on. Teach them how to handle situations when they are bombarded with sweets and junk. But also know your kids’ limits. Knowing what your kid can and can’t handle will help you to equip them and to protect them. None of us can expect the utmost optimal diet at all times. There will be times when we have to accept tolerable over the absolute best. And that’s okay.

5. Let them help with the food preparation and menu planning. Giving a child hands-on experience will make them feel more of a sense of ownership. Ask them what meals they want, and make it for them, or have them help you. Just make it your own healthy way, they will begin to develop a taste for real food, I promise!

6. Do not over-stress, and by all means do not have any guilt. Just do the best you can and don’t sweat what you can’t do at any given time. Never allow guilt to creep in and overcome you. You are now choosing freedom for your family in the food choices you make, don’t allow yourself to get bound up again by feeling guilt when you don’t do it perfectly. That is not the point! Be free and enjoy the journey. Revel in your health and energy levels and the fact that you aren’t going to the doctor as much, or that your kids don’t need braces or little Johnny’s asthma went away. Focus on the blessings that this way of life has brought you, and just press onward!

Hopefully this post has encouraged and inspired those parents out there who just weren’t sure they were up for the challenge of pursuing a healthier dietary protocol at home. I know if I can make major changes, so can you. It’s just a simple yet steady plodding along daily with the goal in mind of actually nourishing your kids and helping them to achieve the best health possible that you have to keep in mind.

Lydia from Divine Health blogLydia Joy Shatney is the author of Divine Health, a site geared toward healing your body through a real foods diet. A single mother of four boys, she has overcome many health issues such as migraines, chronic sinus infections, mittleschmerz, chronic pain, seasonal allergies and has greatly reduced asthma to the point where inhalers are only kept as a back up. On her site you will find a plethora of health related articles as well as numerous recipes for nourishing foods such as fermented foods, how to incorporate liver into meals, gluten free goodies, lower carb snacks and many kid friendly meals.

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16 Responses

  1. excellent tips!!! thanks so much for sharing in a way that isn’t overwhelming. i’m such an all or nothing kind of person, so its been hard to find a balance in real food that we all can live with.

  2. Fabulous tips! Love the realistic tone, too. It’s so hard to try to ensure a well balanced meal-lifestyle. I feel like we have the pickiest eaters and the best I can do is keep trying. There will be ups and downs and it won’t happen overnight, but I know we can make the changes and all eat healthier!

  3. Great tips, and very encouraging. I too started with feed Mom & Dad healthier first (as we are less likely to resist the change LOL) and the children will start to follow along.
    My youngest (7) is the one who is definitely more interested when he is picking out recipes or helping cook, he made his own Cheese sauce the other day (and he was a BIG boxed mac & cheese kid).
    My oldest (12) is starting to realize how he feels better & performs better (esp. at sports) when he eats well. He had a big wake-up call last week when he spent the day at the Fair, eating fair food with his buddies. He came home feeling a little ill, and he said “I knew I needed something good like some meat, but I was too stuffed from eating junk, so now I know to start with the good stuff and eat junky stuff later’. Score one for Mom!!
    I think eventually as they feel better,and eating well comes as second nature they can (and hopefully will) make their own healthy choices.

  4. Thanks for all the tips. There are so many challenges when it comes to food! Now that my little one is 2 I’m starting to notice all the outside influences more too. Just yesterday, we were picking up juice and his eyes immediately went to the giant container of bright blue Hawaiian punch. We are far from perfectly healthy eaters but I never buy that kind of stuff. I told him, “It’s not real juice, it’s sugar water.” So then he kept pointing at it and saying, “Sugar Water!” but seemed okay with not getting it. I’ve definitely gotten lazy and caved with other food things at times but I’m sticking to my guns when it comes to bright blue “juice”.

  5. Great post, Lydia! I love hearing your perspective. It’s such a great reminder that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and living healthy truly is a journey. I always try to remind myself about Oprah’s message that when we know better we do better.

    I’d love to hear more about how you handle food in school. I’m making cupcakes in ice cream cones for my 2nd grader’s class next week. Yuck, yuck, and double yuck! And, I just don’t have time to do something different. However, I want to for next time.

    I also have to get the chapter meetings on my calendar so I can meet you in person!

    1. Hey Barb! Hope to see you at a chapter meeting soon! I just recently wrote to my kids teachers regarding snacks in school and what they choose at lunch (unfortunately, yes they do eat the cafeteria food cause we qualify for free, anyway………..) for example they have to get a protein choice, no pb&J and so forth. I also send snacks for my first grader for his teacher to stash just for him and asked to be informed of every time there is an event in the classroom when they will get additional food/treats so I can plan accordingly just for my kid. I have sent in snack for the whole glass before and it was organic raisins and nuts (thankfully there are no nut allergies in our school). I plan to write to the principal as well just to work on some ideas for overall planning when it comes to extra curricular class parties and such. I guess I finally feel like taking on this battle though I know it will take time to implement change. My youngest is in preschool and he is not allowed to be given anything but what I sent – even if another kid brings in cupcakes for a birthday (yeah I know, I ‘m so cruel) but he at the tender age of 4 knows he feels sick when he eats junk, he’ll even say that will make me sick! Anyway, I actually plan on writing to the homeroom mothers as well soon to see if I can at least get them to offer water instead of juice boxes and only one sweet treat and actually offer something healthy instead of just cookies, pretzels, cupcakes etc……………..I figure if one mom steps out and speaks up maybe others will appreciate it or even become more aware at the very least. Baby steps, it’s all we can do – one day at a time!

  6. Ahhh…we deal with this all the time. Thanks for the good tips. I think my kids eat pretty well…but then they ask for something and I think – ahhh…where on earth did you learn about that….

    So great to hear that it is possible to do better. And knowing that you do it with 4 kids is true inspiration!

  7. Those are excellent tips that I hope to incorporate into our household. I have a 2-year-old son who is a picky eater, but even worse I have a husband who loves junk, particularly candy, beer, and chips. And I struggle with him sometimes when he wants to give our son candy and I don’t. Your 4th tip really resonates with me. Thanks for sharing this info!

  8. This is a great post! I am a mom of ten kids and I have had to fight the battles that go along with meals out, dinner with relatives, and party food. By far the easiest is what they eat at home. I am also a big believer in giving kids a stake in the meal planning. It helps enormously. The only other thing I would add to a very cool post is taking them shopping. Yes, it is a major pain in the neck but if they get to pick it out, they will eat it, and they will pressure the sibs to eat it, too. My kids take turns going to the local health food store and the raw milk runs and going to pick-up honey. These trips are coveted privs and they know that our weekly menu depends on who goes. I stopped over from Kelly’s Monday Morning Mix-Up, by the way, and I am so glad that she highlighted this post.

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