I have a secret that I never tell people in person: one of the reasons we homeschool is so that we can feed our children healthy food. The amount of processed food going into kids these days by the hand of caregivers is ridiculous, and there’s no way to justify it. When the ingredients aren’t even real food, it shouldn’t take the place of food no matter how cheap or easy it is to prepare. We can’t give up and grow unhealthy kids for the sake of convenience!
Children are just like adults, and they won’t learn lasting healthy habits if we focus on what we shouldn’t be feeding them. If our kids think foods high in sugar and fat are good–even in moderation–they will think we are depriving them of good food when we ask them to eat healthy foods. Because they don’t know any different, they will eat unhealthy foods until they are sick. It’s our job to regulate what goes into their bodies and teach them about how our bodies work! They WANT to eat healthy food when they understand that the food they eat grows the cells in their bodies and each cell creates more cells until that group of cells becomes them.
Kids don’t want to be tricked; they know we have more power than them and that we could manipulate or deceive them. They’re naturally cautious of our motives and will rebel if they don’t think our reasons are for their benefit. If we aren’t letting them in on the great secrets of how cells divide and grow our bodies, they won’t ever see the importance of eating healthy foods. Because processed foods taste good and are often easy and fun, they’ll only eat veggies if they understand the importance of real food.
Kids are also brutal bullies, and food is a seemingly innocent thing that kids bully each other over. As adults, we often miss kids bullying each other over food, or we miss its power. If we place our kids in a setting where it’s cool to have the newest processed food and uncool to bring their healthy lunch, they’ll ignore our pleas that they eat healthy, and we’ll lose the food battle (a battle that is actually for their health.)
After all that, I feel like I should have a great master menu of what the meals and foods are that I give our kids, but really I just try to shove as much fruit and vegetables into them as possible! Nothing is packaged or processed. Breakfast gets loaded down with fruit, lunch is fruits and vegetables, and we have at least 2-3 different vegetables at dinner.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard about eating a plant-based diet is to eat some form of protein at every meal. This is especially important with kids. Whether it’s just a handful of nuts, nut butter, seeds, beans, or eggs, protein keeps them full and satisfied.
It’s a glimmer of hope when one of the kids voluntarily asks if a food is healthy or not. I hope they internalize the why behind healthy eating and continue to make healthy choices for themselves as they get older. For now I think it’s our responsibility to teach our kids that food from the earth is good and anything else should be avoided or eaten cautiously in moderation.
Do you struggle with getting your kids to eat healthy foods? Do you have any tips that I didn’t talk about that help get kids to choose healthy foods on their own? Let me know! I’d love to hear how you teach your kids about eating healthy!