Now a days children get sick all the time. Allergies and colds are an everyday occurrence. This happens so frequently that parents are starting to think it’s normal. Let me just say, it is not. It is not normal for a child to get sick at the drop of the hat. If your child gets sick every month, understand this is not just something that happens in childhood. As soon as we acknowledge that, we can take action to help our children live healthier. The more and more we learn about disease, the more it is clear that one of the biggest cult prints is nutrition. We really are what we eat, after all. So what are you feeding your children?
I know, that sadly, we can not control the fate of our children’s health and sometimes things just go wrong despite all our efforts. I know this is a delicate subject, and I know all our circumstances are different. But, I invite you to ask yourself the following: Am I really doing all I can to raise a healthy child?
There are many components that make a healthy child. Love, attention, sleep, exercise and nurturing (to name a few) are part of this equation. But for today i would like to focus on nutrition.
Today I read the following: “there is no such thing as not having time, if it’s important you make time for it.” I know as mothers we often have to juggle a gazillion jobs. There is so much to do, so many demands, so little sleep, our working hours are all hours! I understand, believe me. But if there is something I have learned through this, sometimes excruciating, process is that we have to make time for the things that matter, period. There are too many excuses, the question is: are they worth it?
So, let’s put the time excuse on the shelf for a few and consider what is at stake here. You provide your child with the tools for building his life. What are the tools you provide for them?
When it comes to food it’s quite simple. Children eat what you give them, it’s not like they are going to get a job and start feeding themselves. They learn what you teach them. Your child’s ability to eat nourishing foods in the long run and hence to be healthy begins with you. You set the tone, and honestly, they don’t really have a choice. Maybe you think your child is picky, or he won’t eat this or that, or your child will only eat pizza. Please remember, ultimately (for this brief time in their lives) you are the boss. Take advantage of this great opportunity in this small window of time. You don’t need a master’s degree to feel your child healthy foods, you just have to really, really want to.
Here are a few no-nonsense steps you can take in that direction:
1. You are the captain! Your child might refuse to eat something, but you can change that with time and effort. Once you decide to do this, stick with it and they will follow. And yes you might find yourself one crazy afternoon at a fast food joint for lunch, that is ok, just don’t make it a habit.
2. No more juice. Unless you have a juicer at home and prepare fresh vegetable juices for you kids, don’t give them juice. They are not healthy, no matter if they are organic or what ever. Juices are liquid sugar for the most part, and then some colorings, preservatives and who knows what else. Seriously this is one of the easiest ways to help your child’s immune system. Give them water. They don’t want water, well eventually they will get thirsty :).
3. Start cooking. Remember, no time excuses here. Make time, show your children how important their meals are. Prepare them together if possible. Make them part of this process, they will never forget this important lesson. Then sit down and eat together, it is possible.
4. Avoid processed foods. Eat real foods. If it comes in a package and has a long shelf life, it’s probably not good for you. Packaging is a big part of the food industry and it is designed to be appealing and misleading. Pictures of farms and all natural labels don’t make for a healthy meal. The healthiest foods don’t have a list of ingredients, remember that.
5. Offer variety. Give them choices, healthy choices. The more different foods your child tries, the better off he/she will be. Providing your child with the opportunity to refine his palate is a great gift. Tasting different things is the only way they will learn to appreciate the sweetness of a carrot vs that of a candy bar. And ladies and gentleman, this is the perfect time to do it. The younger you start the better. But remember, it is never too late.
6. Prepare healthy snacks. Ok, this is a big one. I know cause Lucas snacks when ever he is awake :). I know its tempting to have a bunch of pre-packaged snacks, but it is just as easy to put some snap-peas in a bag (it might require a few extra seconds of your day). Of course sometimes I give Lucas pretzels or cheddar bunnies, but for the most part his snacks are whole foods. Here is a list of some of the easiest and fastest ones to put in a lunch box: peppers, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes,broccoli, bananas, apples, berries, cheese,nuts and popcorn. You can even have them packed the night before.
7. Make it a priority. This is the most important rule when it comes to feeding your child right. If you don’t, there are plenty of excuses but also plenty of consequences.
I hope you don’t mind my tough love today, but I feel very strongly about this. Children are completely dependent on us and becoming a parent comes with great advantages but also great responsibility. I know how hard it is to raise a child, but I also know you are a champ and you can do anything you set your heart on. You can do it!