Regardless of reason for dietary changes in a household, it remains difficult to work with kids in making changes. Because they’re kids, they don’t necessarily appreciate healthy choices as much as they like having Wheat Bites for a snack– because they’ve always had Wheat Bites for a snack.
Slow Ride. Whereas adults can more quickly shift to a different style of eating, kids thrive on routine and knowing what to expect. If, for them, breakfasts have always been Poptarts or FrootCharms, you’re not going to be able to enthuse your progeny with a sudden bowl of steel cut oatmeal one fine morning. In fact, a rebellion will most likely ensue as the fear of further change creeps in. Start by trying an acceptable substitute for a snack item in the house instead of a major (and traditionally high-carbohydrate) meal such as breakfast.
Baby Steps. Start by incorporating part of something into a meal, rather than instituting a change of mammoth proportions (especially if your kids aren’t used to eating mammoths). If your family is accustomed to mashed potatoes, adding 1/4 mashed cauliflower to the potatoes is a great beginning. Over time, continue to increase the amount of cauliflower ratio to the potatoes allows the taste buds adapt while instituting a healthier choice for fiber in a dinner side dish. A friend of mine began incorporating small amounts of spaghetti squash to her pots of spaghetti. Now, they are currently at the half-way mark! Remember: Change is change, regardless how slow it might seem.
Critics, Please! Engage your kids in meaningful conversation about what they really like and don’t like about a meal. If the mashed cauliflower was a bust because it was too milky the last time, listen. This time, try a little garlic salt and cream cheese instead of the butter and milk (the milk made it too runny anyway). Enlisting kids as taste testers helps ease the “I tell you to eat it–so eat it!” mentality and allows them to be more willing to try something two–or even three– times.
’One bite per year’ rule. At my dinner table, there is a rule: one bite (for the pensive, they’re usually miniscule) per year of age. It is easy to decide that turnip fries are unacceptable in name. One taste tells them that the texture is different. That’s not enough. Give a kid time for their taste buds to consider the food. Serving a small helping rather than a big ‘blop’ allows them to feel they finished most of a portion rather than the usual lamenting about the wasting of food.
Rarely Trick. Sometimes, while it might be easy to sneak healthy things into their meals, don’t lie to kids. If they ask if there are beets in the cheesecake, be honest. Don’t necessarily volunteer the information, but build a level of food trust with kids. Respect them, their intelligence, and their input. In return, they will reward you with respect and a more open mind for broccoli as a pizza crust ingredient.
Sometimes treat. The kids with the most stringent religions are the ones who sometimes tend to rebel. The same goes for Susie, who is told that never again will another chocolate bar pass her little lips. Unless there is an actual allergy, food intolerance, or medically-mandated change, there is nothing wrong with the occasional McDonald’s French fry. The key is to not make an off-plan item or meal an ‘event’, lest kids grow up thinking that Happy Meals make them truly happy, or that food is a celebration (and not fuel for the body’s engine).
If at first you don’t succeed… No matter how hard we have labored in the kitchen, certain foods will probably never be able to take the place of other foods. No matter how many times you tried to wrap your riced cauliflower in nori in an effort to make low glycemic load sushi, you ended up with a gum eraser that smelled like sweaty feet. Accepting that some foods (like rice) are what the sushi requires will help you to either realize that you never missed the food in the first place or that you appreciate it all the more for what it is. Go ahead and use the lower-carb white bread or the low-carb wraps– albeit sparingly— for the lunch sandwiches, but never make a special occasion out of a food you don’t want kids to associate with happiness.
Try Swapping ………………….For
Fruit Roll-Ups ………… Home-made dried fruit leather
Cookies………………. String cheese
High-Sugar Popsicles ….. Snow Cones with davincis SF syrup in raspberry
Cereal ……………….. Yogurt with strawberries (and Splenda or Honey)
Chips ………………… Celery with cream cheese
Chips ………………….. Crispy dill spears
Candy bars ……………. Lindt or Ghirardelli chocolate squares (over 60% cocoa)
Chocolate ice cream ……… Sugar-Free Jell-o pudding with fresh, whipped cream