One of my greatest challenges when working with parents is helping them develop habits that get their kids to eat healthy foods. This is a big issue during “Back to School” month, as school programs often offer microwaved, highly processed, nutrient poor, previously frozen lunches to kids. It is not hard to imagine the impact that such a menu has upon children. The ability to concentrate, learn, play hard, sleep well and maintain an active immune system are profoundly affected by such low quality foods.
Encouraging your child to make healthy eating habits can be a complex and difficult process. I certainly do not have the answer for every situation, but here are a few guidelines to help you improve your child’s eating habits and overall health. In the end, my hope is that they will lead to more family harmony and ultimately make your job easier, not harder.
First, I recommend that you involve kids in the meal preparation process. The earlier you start getting your kids excited about healthy food choices, the more willing they will be to eat their creation. Encourage them to take pride and ownership in the cooking process. There’s no reason that you can’t create a wonderful oatmeal cookie recipe with raisings, nuts or apricots that your child will love to cook, share and eat. You can extend this further by getting your children involved in gardening. Even time-constrained parents can fill a pot with soil and grow a tomato or 21 day radishes. The experience could change their image of vegetables forever.
Second, I paraphrase the advice from Ellyn Satter (check out her institute on line): Your job is to offer your child the food you want to offer, at the time you want him or her to eat it. The child’s job is to decide what and how much of it to eat. In this way, you are developing a dynamic that leave both you and your child with a degree of decision making power. I find that in the vast majority of cases, children will sooner or later begin to eat a reasonable amount of healthy foods.
Third, get rid of any food in the house you do not want your child to eat. This is important! You will have to change your menu also if you want to impart lasting changes in your child’s health.
Fourth, I strongly urge you to assemble the family together for a daily meal. I cannot overemphasize the importance of the social, bonding aspect of a relaxed, pleasant meal as part of a bonding process that engenders proper eating habits into children.
Fifth, read about how to make some of these changes. I mentioned Ellyn Satter’s website. Another excellent resources is the chapter “Practical Guidelines for feeding your Child” in “ADHD Without Drugs” by Sanford Newmark.
Finally, I would like to offer parents a tasty option: Zucchini-Cauliflower crust pizza. I chose this one because pizza is one meal that gets most kids excited. Because I am adversary of the mainstream dairy industry (although I find raw milk, especially raw goats milk to have much fewer deleterious health effects), I am recommending here a pesto recipe. This recipe takes me about thirty minutes to make, but a food processor can cut down that time.
The benefit of this recipe lies in the fact that avocado is very high in essential fatty acids. Basil is an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese and very good source of copper, vitamin C, calcium, iron, folate and omega-3 fatty acids. Zucchini is high in vitamin A and cauliflower, being in the broccoli family, is extremely supportive of the detoxification pathways. The lack of processed flour places this rendition of pizza very low on the glycemic index, making it a meal of choice for those who struggle with blood sugar issues.
For the crust: 6 cups of raw shredded zucchini, 4 cups of minced cauliflower, 1 beaten egg, 2 Tbs ground flax seed, 1/2-1 cup coconut flour, salt and seasonings to taste. Steam the cauliflower until soft, then press all the water and juice out well using cheese cloth. Do the same with the shredded zucchini. Mix all the ingredients together, then spread them out (about 1/2 inch thick) on a pizza screen (a perforated pan). This removal of water from the vegetables and the use of the pizza screen is imperative if you want the crust to be firm. Bake 40 minutes at 400̊ F.
For the pesto: 1 large bunch fresh basil, 2 ripe avocados, 1/2 cup walnuts or hemp seeds, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 3 cloves garlic, 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Blend ingredients together in a food processor, adding water or oil to desired thickness. Once the crust is done cooking, spread the pesto on the crust. Add your desired toppings. Cook briefly to warm the pesto. Remember that the oils in the avocado rancidify in heat; I do not recommend leaving the pesto in the oven for very long.