Today I'm sharing how to raise a healthy eater.
I’ve started writing this post at least a dozen times without finishing it. I want to write something positive and inspiring about feeding healthy kids. In fact, I have an entire lineup of healthy kid and family posts just waiting to publish. I’ve held back, though, because writing about parenting is an extremely delicate venture. I know how difficult being a parent can be, and how hard it can be to get meals on the table every single day. Add on top of that the pressure to make those meals healthy and the entire issue can become downright stressful. I want to be a helpful and inspiring voice in this space, to help you think about your own feeding healthy kids philosophy and then to carry it out. I’m not here to judge, I’m here to help.
With that said, today I want to share how to raise a health eater. These are the values I use to guide the choices I make regarding raising my daughter as a healthy eater. I should note that she is only three and a half, and that the specific strategies I use on a daily basis have and will continue to change over time. The values I’m sharing today, however, have remained constant and I believe they are applicable whether you are raising a one-year-old or a seventeen-year-old. They are simple yet powerful, and I use them rely on them daily. Today I'm happy to share them with you.
How To Raise a Healthy Eater
1. Cultivate a positive relationship with food. Do I want my daughter to love fruits and vegetables? Absolutely. Do I try to limit the amount of processed foods she eats on a regular basis? Definitely. Are those the most important things to me when it comes to raising a healthy eater? No. Sure, the fruits and the veggies and the processed foods are important details. But I don’t want them to distract from the big picture, which is raising a strong, healthy, confident human being who loves eating real food in a balanced way.
I want to help her cultivate a positive relationship with food. To view it as a joyful part of her life, as a way to nourish her body and to share with people she loves. I don’t want her to be afraid of certain foods or to become obsessed with the idea of food being “good” or “bad,” “healthy” or “unhealthy.” She doesn’t have any known food allergies or food sensitivities so I want her to know that the food world is hers to explore. Even if that means sometimes she choses a hamburger and fries when we go out to eat, or asks for pink cake with pink frosting for her birthday. I want her to know that splurges and treats are a fun part of life and that eating real, whole foods the rest of the time can be equally satisfying.
2. Develop self sufficiency through cooking. In a world sliding ever further toward convenience and fast foods, I want my daughter to know how to cook. I want to to be confident in her knowledge about what she wants to eat, of how to shop for fresh ingredients, and her ability to cook herself a good meal. I want her to be able to eat well after she leaves home and to be able to cook and share meals with her friends and partner. Self-sufficiency through cooking is empowering and it’s something I am working on teaching her now.
3. Create a sense of where food comes from. I want my her to know that the zucchini she’s eating came from our backyard and that it grew from a tiny seed. To understand that each vegetable on her plate was grown and harvested by a farmer. That her scrambled eggs were laid by a chicken. Creating this sense of connection between her and her food increases the likelihood that she will try new foods and that she’ll choose real food when given the option.
4. Eat real food most of the time. I wrote My Real Food Philosophy: What I Eat, What I Don’t and Why to define how I eat and what I mean by the term “real food.” I follow this philosophy when deciding what to feed my daughter, and I hope she will follow it on her own as she grows. I want her to know that eating real food doesn’t have to be restrictive or complicated. Rather, it can be as simple as focusing on eating plants, cooking at home, avoiding processed food, incorporating fiber, fat and protein into every meal, and finding joy in the process. The other day she told me her favorite foods were beans, veggies, pasta, and chocolate. A pretty good balance of real foods with a few treats thrown in for good measure. It’s a philosophy I hope she can embrace for a lifetime.
Do these values resonate with you? Do you share these values or do you have a different set you follow in raising a healthy eater?
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