mama highlight - sara: feeding healthy kids in an unhealthy world

i didn't really have to worry about what river ate until he was 18 months old! feeding him was easy. he liked four things: eggs, grapes, bananas, and blueberries. we avoided sweets and junk, and he survived and thrived almost entirely off of my breastmilk. now that he is weaned and depends on solid foods to keep him healthy and growing, i have to pay more attention to what he eats and doesn't eat. he is very aware of what is in the house -- he sees a bag a chips, and immediately wants a chip! how does he know? i have no idea. not only do we have to be careful of what we eat around him, but we have to watch what's in the house, period! he often goes to the refrigerator or pantry and helps himself to what's eye-level. the other morning he chose a stick of butter for breakfast, and came toddling into our room, taking bites out of it like it was a banana.

one of my favorite websites to read about food and healthy eating is sara janssen's blog happy foody. sara has two girls, lucy, who is two, and bella, seven. i've always admired how commitment she is to feeding her family wholesome, simple, yet creative meals. i wondered how she gets her girls to down big glasses of green smoothies and how she handles keeping them eating healthy when we are surrounded by fast food restaurants on every corner, and influenced by the junk food on every shelf at the grocery store. i asked her a few questions, and love what she has to say about feeding kids healthy foods.

What does "a day in the life of Bella and Lucy" look like in terms of meals?
Every day is different! But here is an example of what we like:
Breakfast: Oatmeal topped with almond milk + walnuts + brown sugar --OR-- eggs and whole grain toast --OR--whole grain pancakes and 'real' maple syrup.
Snack: Goat milk yogurt or gluten free crackers and raw cheddar goat cheese
Lunch: Hummus + avocado wrap with cucumber
Snack: Homemade trail mix (raw sunflower seeds + pumpkin seeds + organic raisins) or Oatmeal bars and fresh fruit.
Supper: Veggie curry + brown rice

gluten-free pancakes, yummm. photo courtesy of sara janssen and blogged about here.

What decisions have you made concerning their diet that are a little unconventional, according to our society's standards?
We are vegetarian and try to avoid dairy, food colorings, trans fats, and preservatives. Those things alone make us pretty unconventional. :)

Have you ever received criticism about these decisions?
Of course! Anytime you make decisions that are different than someone else, there is the potential for them to feel like you are judging them. They might say things that seem critical, when in reality it's just them questioning what they are doing in their own life and working through it.

How do you handle eating in social settings, like birthday parties? For instance, do your girls eat cake and ice cream and snacks with the rest of the kids? 
Yes, when we're out and about, Bella eats what she wants (except for meat). Lucy doesn't eat dairy, but we do allow her some treats. It's never excessive and we still try to avoid colorings and such.

I really do believe that if you completely restrict a child's diet to the point of obsession...they will revolt against that when they get out in the "real world". The best way to ensure children will make those decisions on their own is to educate them and then give them freedom! Sometimes they will make good decisions, and sometimes they will indulge. Just like adults!

photo courtesy of sara janssen and blogged about here.

What are some tips you have for getting kids to eat healthy in an unhealthy world?
Change starts at HOME! Kids will eat whatever their parents are eating, almost without fail. To truly make a change in habits, all harmful foods need to be completely removed from the house. When healthy foods are the only option for the entire family, it's easy to make good choices!

Keep offering healthy food, even if it's rejected at first. Work hard to find nourishing foods that they truly ENJOY! Bring them shopping with you and have them pick out their top 3 favorite fruits!

Find substitutes for their unhealthy favorites and GO SLOW! Don't try to go cold turkey...it's possible to have severe withdrawal symptoms from removing sugar from the diet.

If they love pop, replace it slowly with something like Izze or another carbonated sweetened juice. Then try going to unsweetened flavored iced teas.

photo courtesy of sara janssen, and blogged here.

sara wrote one of my favorite articles about kids and food. be sure to check out sara's blogs happy foody and walk slowly, live wildly for more healthy eating and simple living inspiration!

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