I have always had a very strong conviction that kids need to be fed healthy and whole foods from the very start of life. To me this means breastfeeding . . . no matter what the cost.
I'm not going to turn this into a breastfeeding discussion and I know that there are honestly some people that cannot breastfeed due to medical concerns but those are few and far between. It wasn't easy for me either but it was a commitment that I made to myself and to my kids when they were born.
When my kids started "solid" food, I started to do my research. I learned that white rice cereal is probably not the best choice for a first food. First of all, it just contains simple carbs which the body will just turn to sugar. Also, if you are breastfeeding, you are taking a perfect and fatty food (which children desperately need for brain development) and substituting it for a food with no fat and very little nutritional value.
So I actually started my kids on bananas. We soon progressed to other mushy and fatty things like avocado and quickly added in fruits and veggies.
I honestly think one of the main keys to success when getting a child to eat healthy foods is a very simple one . . . start as you mean to go on. I have consistently offered my kids a fruit and a vegetable at almost every meal, whole grains, and healthy meats. They don't know what white bread or white rice is so they don't ask for it.
Now . . . does this mean I feed my kids perfectly? Definitely not! Not only do I have a husband to contend with (sorry dear!) who tends to lean towards cheaper and not quite as whole foods as I prefer, and we are trying to do all of this on a budget. I also find it difficult to cook in early pregnancy and so I'm sure my kids ate their fair share of junk during that time (I don't really remember!)
My main line of defence when it comes to this is . . . cooking from scratch. My kids eat macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, and pizza but you won't find me opening a can or calling a store to get these items. I usually make it all from scratch. That way I know what goes into each food, I can substitute whole grains (like pasta) for the white ones and add or take out things that are "unhealthy".
Here are some of my favorite meals that are simple and easy to cook for kids:
- Eggs and Toast - both my kiddos love scrambled eggs and buttered whole wheat toast for breakfast. Had it this morning - actually.
- Fruit - We usually have bananas, pineapple, pears, grapes, or peaches.
- Whole Wheat Pancakes or Waffles - I make these from scratch one morning a week, usually and we'll munch on them for the rest of the week. Use real maple syrup or honey instead of syrup containing HFCS.
- French Toast - yum. My husband usually makes this on the weekend - again usually with whole wheat bread.
- Smoothies - I don't get around to making these very often and the reason is because I don't often have a wide variety of fruit available. I always have fruit but it's usually just one or two options at a time. I want to start doing more of this, though.
*My kids don't eat much cereal. When they are babies I usually give them whole grain organic "o"'s to practice eating finger foods but beyond that we don't generally eat cereal in our house. My youngest daughter drinks a low-pasteurized, non-homogenized, grass-fed antibiotic and hormone-free milk once a day but my oldest daughter has never had milk - and now doesn't want it!
- Almond butter sandwiches! Lots of good protein and I do put a little jam on there for a sweet taste. You must read the labels or make your own on this to make sure it doesn't contain HFCS.
- Egg Sandwiches. A family favorite! I usually add a slice of natural cheese (not processed!) to boost fat content for the kiddos and calories.
- Peas, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Green Beans, Carrots - these are our favorite veggies and we need to branch out a bit but both of my girls eat these really well.
- Macaroni and Cheese - yes I do this for lunch sometimes but I either make it from scratch with my own cheese sauce and whole wheat pasta or I use an Annie's Organic Box.
- We do occasionally have grilled cheese but again I only use cheddar or a similar cheese - not American.
There are so many things I could put here but I will just write down some of our favorites.
- Meatloaf and veggies. I have a great recipe from Passionate Homemaking for Meatloaf. You make your own bread crumbs (the ones from the store can contain nasty stuff), and your own ketchup mixture for the top (again . . . regular ketchup is full of sugar and usually HFCS).
- Homemade Pizza. I buy nitrate free pepperoni and my pizza sauce from Whole Foods and I usually make the dough from scratch.
- Spaghetti. Again, I use a whole wheat pasta, organic jarred sauce and grass fed beef.
- Carol's Mexican Chicken. Yummy and easy mexican dish. Chicken breast in a crock pot with whole kernel corn and black beans. Mix in taco seasoning (again making your own - the store stuff has additives) and sour cream at the end. Yummy!
I'm sure there's more but that's all my ideas for now.
*Note on picky eaters: Perhaps I have been blessed by kids that are just simply not picky but my girls generally eat great. I think that a lot of it has to do with our expectations. I always try to cook foods that they are able to eat but not necessarily their favorites. For example, I refrain from making steak sometimes because it is hard for little girls to eat that. However we just expect them to eat what is cooked. My 3-year old does have preferences and after she has tried something she will say she doesn't like it. That's fine with me. I will simply put it away but if she gets hungry later, that is what is getting pulled out of the fridge.*
Again, in no way do I feed my kids perfect food. I strive to do my best and then I forgive the times when I might feed them something a little questionable (so long as it doesn't become a habit). I'm sure there are many things I could put more effort into and many other foods I could introduce them to at this point.