I teach many style cooking classes in my kitchen. My all time favorite class to teach is for the children. It is called Playing with Food™. I also prepare vegan school lunches for a National early childhood education provider. I have raised two children now 20 and 13 on a vegan diet from birth so eating healthy natural food was/is the norm for our family. I often take for granted when I am speaking to others what I have been doing naturally for over 20 years. There were however many challenges. This list is how I overcame them and teach others how to do so in my classes.
1. First of all, remember you are the parent. You are their guide and protector. Creating a healthy environment starts with you. You purchase the food that comes into the house and you control what goes into heir bodies. Think strategically. You must take the offense in this situation. You cannot be on the defense every time your child says they do not want or like something. When you take fill responsibility for your parental control children will eat what is available to them to eat.
2.The things you want to minimize should become rare pleasures and treasures that can not ever be found in your home. If you do not intend for your children to eat soda or bottled juice from concentrate do not promote it to them by purchasing those things and consuming them yourself. Be the super hero role model.Children mimic your behavior. Practice what you teach.
3. You are not going to change their diets in one meal. Do not force them to go cold turkey. Introduce foreign foods to them slowly. Children’s pallets mature as they grow. You may like Brussels sprouts and okra but their taste buds are simply not able. How? Make a burger out of beans. Make a lasagna out of fresh fruits and nuts. Make mini versions of everything made especially JUST FOR THEM. Food is personal make sure you are nurturing your children’s relationship with it.
4. Plan, plan, plan. Create a schedule. Create a meal plan. Planning even if only one day ahead at a time will help you shop more efficiently and will ultimately save you money. Planning keeps everything transparent.
5. Keep it simple. Stop thinking about that towering food pyramid. That pyramid is not real. Think whole colorful vibrant foods. Stay away from anything processed. Do not underestimate the power of a whole fruit cut up into pieces. Whole grains like wild rice, quinoa, and millet can be cooked ahead of time and used for almost anything. Fresh fruits and vegetables blended into smoothies make great snacks. Make chili, soups, stews, or casseroles out of leftovers and freeze them. They will love it.
6. Do not be the veggie code enforcement officer. Telling them to eat their vegetable or else will only create a bad relationship between your child and those vegetables. Think. Save some money and make your own spaghetti or pizza sauce with your children and add those veggies in there. Children live to dip. If they won’t ear chick peas as a whole bean blend them up and make a hummus. Figure out the top ten things your child likes and create all of your families meals around that.
7. Allow your children to play with food. You have to get your children involved in the entire process. Allow them to take control and ownership in the planning. Them take them shopping with you. Making an adventure out of hand selecting produce can easily be turned into a ritual. Get them comfortable In the heart of your home, the kitchen. Make it fun. Allow them wash vegetables, stuff the blender, add ingredients. Get their hands messy, cut cucumbers and celery. They will be naturally inclined to eat what they created.