Feb 3, 2014

How to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthier

Most people's reaction when I tell them that we are gluten free look at me with a dead-serious face and say "Then what do you eat?"  And of course, their next questions, "How to you get your kids to eat like that?"  I find both of the questions kind of funny, but also understand the mental shift and change that accompanies our choice to cut wheat and other gluten-filled items out of our diet.  It didn't happen perfectly over night, and it took a lot of research and a few mistakes.  But the true answer is, "We just don't eat gluten anymore."  It's pretty simple. 

So simple, that I decided to make a list of some of the ways we were able to rid our house of snacky crackers and treats, and fill our pantry and fridge with foods that will help our sons grow adequately and to their full potential without the harmful effects of gluten.  Gluten does not impact everyone the same way, but I do feel that these changes would help anyone get their child - or themselves - into a better food routine; eating less crappy junk, and more nutritious and whole foods. 

1.  Start your kids off with a Paleo breakfast every day.

This is one thing that I try my very best to do each day.  We have times where we run out of eggs, or have to mix it up with cereal or oatmeal options, but for the most part, my boys get a hearty, cooked breakfast each day.  Now, this does not mean I COOK breakfast each morning.  Not at all.  I cook on Sundays and make enough to last us the week.  There is nothing better and more filling than eggs and bacon, or some egg casserole in the morning before you head off to work or school.  My boys prefer pancakes - and YES, there is such thing as healthy pancakes.  Grain free and delicious.  Right now, we are really into Pumpkin Pancakes.  CLICK HERE to see the ones we are eating this month. 

Here is why I like this idea.  Kids eat WAY too many grains during the day.  No judgement - I used to be the one doing this with my kids.  Cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, pasta for dinner...etc.  Our kids are developing GRAIN BRAINS and WHEAT BELLYs at an incredible rate.  I truly feel that kids only need about 1-2 servings of grain each day at most.  I don't want to waste it on breakfast, when there are so many other ways to eat it - either in the snack form or with our family dinners.  Save the grains for later.  They will function so much better at school in the morning and stay full 'til lunch if you give your kids something nutritious and hearty for breakfast. 

2.  Send the world's healthiest lunch to school.

One of the things that makes me laugh each year during conferences is how many parents tell me that it sounds like I am talking about a different child when referring to what I see at school.  The truth is, as parents, we often get the run down, whiny, and tired versions of our kids after a long day at work or school.  They rarely whine to their teachers, talk back, or argue.  Sounds like the perfect chance to send foods that you don't have to hear complaints about. 

I bet your child won't raise his hand and complain to his teachers or lunch monitors about their foods.  They may roll their eyes at their friends, or pick at it for a few days.  But, when that is their only option of food, then there is a good chance they will eat it - or risk starving the rest of the day.  This carries over into what you pack for snack too.  It doesn't have to come from a package to be considered a snack.  99% of my kindergarten students have to cut open or rip into their snack every afternoon.  Every once in a while there is an apple or carrot sticks.  WHY??  If you are only sending in healthy foods during the school day, that is all they will eat. 


Now, I am not saying to abuse them with weird new things either.  I am just saying send some veggies that you know they have eaten before, fruit is always a great choice, and keep the grains to a minimum.  I have seen some amazing lunches in my time as a teacher, and I have seen some super failures as well.  Keep this rule: only 1 item in their lunch should have come from, or still be in, a package. 

3.  Eat Super Bowl style.

So I am guessing a ton of you ate way too much yesterday at your Super Bowl gatherings.  I know that I usually over-eat when food is on display and readily available for long periods of time.  Your kids will do the same thing too - in a good way when the foods are healthy.  I tried this the other night with my boys and it was a big success.

I am pretty traditional when it comes to family dinners.  I expect that we eat as a family as often as we can, try to catch up on every one's day, and enjoy each others' company.  With that, we also have nights where daddy works late, and everything is off schedule.  On these nights, I like to have Super Bowl style menus.  Put out tons of {healthy} options - veggies, nuts, cheese cubes or sticks, or other things you would like your kids to try.  Pop in a favorite movie, and poof, they aren't half as interested in arguing about food, as they are about running around and grabbing food and then getting back to their play.  Just like me watching the football game: snack, watch, chat, repeat.  They will eat a ton more than you expect, and possible try some new things.  It's one of those no-pressure dinners, where no one is forcing anyone to try something they don't want.  Eat what you like, and enjoy the night.

4.  Bribery {Gasp}

I'll be the first to admit it - sometimes I have to bribe my child to eat new things.  Cooper will try anything - he trusts me 100% and if I put it on his plate, he will try at least one bite before making decisions about whether he likes it.  Meade is not so easy.  He decides that he doesn't like it as soon as he sees it.  Regardless of what it is.  It took me almost 3 years to get him to TRY a bite of pizza.  Who doesn't like pizza?  He would have nothing to do with it.  I don't recommend bribery for every meal, or for finishing meals that you know they've eaten before, however, if sampling or trying new things is rare for your cutie...I would try a good bribe. :)

Here is my bribery rules.  We usually use teeny-tiny gluten free cookies for this.  If you try a new food = 1 cookie.  If you eat a lot of it = 2 cookies.  If you clear your plate = 3 cookies.

We don't get dessert every night.  And there are definitely times where I put my foot down and just demand them to try things without treats.  Again, this is not ideal for every meal.   I just don't want dinner to always feel like a battle.  This works great for us in regards to trying brand new items, which is never more than once a week. 

5.  Sneaky foods and fake names

We love to add in healthy foods into my kids smoothies and other treats.  I loved the book Deceptively Delicious a while back, but now am leaning more towards helping them choose to eat good foods - knowingly.  My sons are obsessed with Brain Pop and love videos the one below.  Meade tells me every day whether or not something we are eating is healthy.  Depending on their age, they could enjoy watching and learning. 

{click HERE to watch}

With that being said, we do incorporate some sneaky foods into their diets though.  I add kale and spinach to their smoothies, and add chia and flax to their favorite NO BAKE COOKIES.  There are always ways to help get healthy foods into their diet without their knowing.

Fake names help too.  I don't introduce new foods with their real names until after they have tried and liked.  So, mashed cauliflower is referred to as mashed potatoes. Edamame isn't edamame, those are just "big peas".  Once they try and decide something is edible, that is when I spring the new name on it.  Keep it simple and uncomplicated.  Kids are on a need-to-know basis.  ;)

6.  Don't bring junk into the house

This is the simplest rule yet.  If you don't buy it, then no one will eat it.  Simple as that.  The reason we don't eat m&ms and Cheez-its is because they aren't in our house.  You have 100% control over the foods that you bring into your home.  It's all or nothing.  Your whole family has to be on board.  If your hubby is a snacker or brings crap into the house, you need to have a conversation about how it needs to stop.  When my son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, we gutted our house of anything that contained wheat.  How would we explain to Meade why Cooper gets to eat things that he couldn't?  Don't allow it to be an issue.  The last thing you want is food to be an issue for your children - the not having it, or the jealousy around who gets what.  Not a healthy place for your little ones. 

Food needs to be understood by kids as a source of fuel for our bodies, not a pleasurable experience we get each and every day - an experience upon which happiness is dependent.  Yuck.  If your child is crying over food often - we need to look at the relationships we are building between them and food.  And that starts with you - you are a model for this.  We are teaching them about food every day.  What to eat, how to eat it, how much to eat, how to prepare it, where to buy it...and so much more.  Children are truly mirrors of ourselves.  What kind of habits are you teaching them?

If you have questions on how to get started, or need recipe ideas - feel free to browse some of the items we have posted in the past.  Or, leave a comment below or contact us through our buttons at right or left.  We are passionate about helping people find ways to be as healthy as possible - and this is true for your kids as well.

Hoping you are helping create great habits this week for you and yours.  I know we are over here at the Haus of Boys.  Have a great week!



  1. I love this! Thank you for the tips! I have a very picky 9 year old, but thankfully her favorites include pineapples, strawberries, peaches and raw snap peas!! Definitely making these pancakes!

    1. The pancakes are a win. Glad your cutie loves some good treats - I always try to add some of their favorites on the side when intro-ing new stuff. Glad you'll have a good list to choose from! :)

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