With all the holiday junk food hoopla over most of us are on a healthier path as we start this new year.
Personally, I’m not into New Years resolutions but I am into slowly progressing in the right direction. I’m a believer in baby steps to a healthier you, healthier kids, a healthier family. How do you get started and what plan should you follow?
It seems as though the standards keep changing when it comes to nutritional requirements issued from our government officials. The new standards now require we fill half our plates with fruits and vegetables. And no, potato chips and french fries do not qualify as a veggie! But it’s not all good news as you’ll soon find out.
So who’s right? The government’s recently updated My Plate? Or the Power Plate, developed by a group of knowledgable doctors? And more importantly, what’s right for you and your family? I say, become well informed and then make the decision for yourself.
Now, trying to get your kids (or your spouse for that matter!) to fill half of their plates with fruits and veggies may seem like a daunting task, but it can be easier than you’d think. Don’t give up hope yet!
I’m an avid fan of Dr. Neal Barnard, his message and his cookbooks. That’s why I was so pleased to find out about the new Power Plate which Dr. Barnard and a group of other proactive physicians started. It’s better than the Vegan Food Pyramid (in my opinion it’s much easier to understand and adapt to) and I’m hoping it catches on!
The Power Plate suggests Four NEW Food Groups including:
these servings sizes are for adults
The focus is on fresh or raw fruits and veggies, more fiber, less cholesterol and fats and using foods to heal and fuel our bodies.
PCRM’s website really simplifies things by showing exactly which foods supply calcium, vitamin D, iron, protein, etc. (FYI, I’m not at all affiliated with them, just a fan!)
It’s so important to involve your kids (if you have them) in learning where foods come from, which nutrients are in which foods, how much of each they need and why. The cool thing is that us adults can learn right along with them!
There is the USDA’s MyPlate.gov option in effect right now but I really have a problem (or two or three) with it. Check it out for yourself here. Under the dairy section it actually lists things like strawberry milk, ice cream and processed cheese! And guess what it doesn’t say: that dairy causes osteoporosis. Hmm. It does say “Intake of dairy products is linked to improved bone health, and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis”. Um, but what about this article? Or this article from 2005? Or this one? How about this one?
You make the call.
So you’ve figured out a plan that can work for you, now how the heck to get all those fresh fruits and vegetables to go down easily?
Some tricks to get those kids (and spouses!) to eat their fill of fruits & veggies:
This is the one main reason why I wrote “The Boy Who Loved Broccoli“, if you haven’t ordered it yet, I suggest you give it a try! It really does work like magic!
- Grow your own food: whether you have a windowsill or lush backyard to grow things, take your child(ren) to the gardening store and let them help you pick out a few seeds or seedlings to grow at home! Some easy ones to get started with are beans, lettuce, kale, peppers or radishes.
- Get kids involved: ask your kids what they’d like to see on the menu and let them help you shop. Give them a list of specific (healthy) items to pick out and place in the cart. When children are allowed to be a part of the food preparation process, they feel more confident to give it a try. Personally, my kids love telling me what they want in their lunches (sometimes it’s rational, however, not every time), and they each get to choose one dinner a week. The cool thing is you may be surprised and try a new food you never thought to introduce to your young one.
- Play with your food: let kids be silly with their food and it will be more likely to make it into their mouths. Pretend an asparagus is a pencil and let kids “write on their plates” with it. (The more they handle it and get familiar with it, the better!)
- Become actors: this kind of goes with the “play with your food” concept, but in our house, when one kid (usually the youngest culprit) refuses a veggie, the older kids chime in by taking a bite of their own veggie and suddenly becoming filled with superpowers. (Example: one kid takes a bite of a carrot and instantly, and dramatically, has super x-ray vision or night vision powers…since carrots are great for those eyes!) If you have one child, have mom or dad get in the act by suddenly growing bigger in their chair after taking a bite of zucchini.
- Make food fun, not a chore: easier said then done, right? Basically what I mean is, sometimes it’s best to look at your child’s overall week’s worth of food, rather than what they’ve had in one meal. Maybe they’ve eaten a lot more fruits and healthy items then you thought, just not all at the dinner hour. If you don’t stress, hopefully the kiddos won’t either! Add some fun colorful “kiddie” plates and utensils to the mix. Or try the opposite by getting out the special occasion dishes and make the meal a fancy event, complete with cloth napkins!
- Be real: if your kids are old enough to understand why they should be eating certain foods, maybe they will. Sometimes we go online together or flip through food related nutrition books and talk about what a sweet potato has in it that’s so good for us and what it can do for our body. And on the opposite side, what will happen if we don’t get those foods into our bodies. Recently, one of my three kids agreed to try beets because I told them how amazing it was for the blood and that it makes them have super powerful veins that make them go “pow!” “bam!”…I really acted it out…so glad there were no cameras around!
- Don’t give up! Studies have shown it can take up to 20 tries before a kid will even attempt to eat a certain food. (I can attest to this myself! It once took my 2 year old at least that long to eat corn. I kept placing small amounts of it on his plate every so often and one evening, he decided to try it. And guess what? He liked it and asked for more and now it’s a food he loves.)
- Use hunger pangs to your advantage: this may seem obvious, but the hungrier a kid is, the better your chances are for them to eat something good for them. In our house, when it’s about time for me to start preparing dinner, I set out a colorful plate of bell pepper strips, carrots and olives. 9 times out of 10, it all gets gobbled up. And then you don’t have to feel so guilty about them not eating the “yucky” veggie that you’ve put on their plate for dinner…but don’t quit trying.
- Be patient: kids’ taste buds are not fully developed yet (and not tainted yet either!) so they prefer milder foods as well as foods to be separated, or whole, instead of all mashed together. Ever wonder why kids don’t want one food to touch another food? Sometimes using the KISS (keep it simple stupid) rule applies.
To Hide Veggies Or Not To Hide Veggies:
I do like the idea of sneaking in some healthy ingredients whenever possible, but for the most part think it’s important that kids know and see what it is they’re eating. Gradually, they will come around. Sneaking in some extra seeds for added protein or molasses for iron is something I’m known to do often, but if it’s a piece of broccoli I want my child to eat, there’s no going around it!
I would offer, however, that adding extra veggies into tomato sauces, bean burgers or vegan chili is a great way for everyone to get some extra nutrition.
Note: Sometimes personality plays a major role too. In my house, one of my kids is willing to try just about anything within reason, while another is as picky as they come, slowly…very slowly, incorporating new foods into his diet monthly. The last one is a toddler so I think he gets a bit of a pass for being picky, but he’s one we sometimes bribe (yes, I’m not ashamed to say so!) with a chocolate chip or two…dark chocolate that is!
Here are some other great sources for information on eating healthier: