Struggling to instal healthy eating habits in your children? Fear not! Naomi Buff, Holistic Wellness Coach and founder of I am Superfood Blends, shares her journey on getting her son and daughter to embrace healthy eating and her top tips on getting your children eating healthily too!
Being a health expert with two children you would think they are both perfect little eaters, well sadly not!
I have a 13 year old daughter and a 7 year old son and between the 2 of them I have explored every avenue of health and wellness with them as well as experienced every emotion.
I started my career in health and wellness due to my son who was one when we moved from the UK to France then to Monaco 6 years ago. Following the move he went from eating beautifully prepared Anabel Karmel homemade meals to becoming a self proclaimed junk food vegetarian eating a diet consisting of white foods that I could count on one hand. Being in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, I didn’t have any support and this threw me into the unknown! A few months later he randomly drank a huge cup of fresh apple, carrot and ginger juice, as the ginger packed a serious punch I realised that it wasn’t the flavour of food that he didn’t like (years later I realised it was a psychological issue which has since led me to study Eating Psychology). I clung to this breakthrough, bought a juicer, vitamix and started to study nutrition from home. I then started to create recipes for him, which integrated fruits, vegetables and superfoods so I could ensure he was receiving all the nutrients he needed to grow. I would serve him superfood smoothies in fun cups telling him they were milkshakes, courgette cakes, quinoa cookies and much more. Once I learnt to relax into his ways and took the pressure off myself he eventually started eating meat about 4 years later. He is a very healthy boy, with boundless energy yet he still won’t touch a vegetable but is happy to drink them, he tells me he prefers to drink his vegetables. The bottom line with my son is that he is just not a foodie, he will pass on the chocolate cake at a birthday party and will take one lick of an ice cream then hand it to me as he has had enough, I have learnt to accept him for his crazy little ways and trust that eventually he will also learn to eat his greens up too!
My daughter was a great eater when she was little and would eat platefuls of salmon and broccoli, by the time she reached 7 we were living in France all this changed as the sweet treats the kids were showered with after school and at sporting activities soon managed to destroy all my hard work and good efforts. I was shocked to see the mothers at the school gates with full packets of cookies and chocolate bar sandwiches, my apple and crackers didn’t go down to well and she soon started wanting what the other kids were eating, I was in a tough position as she was struggling to fit in as it was being one of the only English girls in a small French school so gave in more than I wanted. Her diet change then (sugar became a comforter) and it took years of battling with her until recently (so 6 years later) to finally have found a way to inspire a healthier diet. Even though I am known as a health expert in Monaco consulting with restaurants, hotels and high profile clients it wasn’t good enough for her and all my advice continued to fall on deaf ears! I can’t begin to tell you how disappointing and frustrating those years were.
So what changed? Me! I changed my approach with her, I took the pressure off and gave her the tools so she could educate herself rather than continue to lecture her. I first gave her some of my books, which were easy reading, she is very intellegent so this was a good approach. She didn’t take too much interest in the books at first and I started to find myself nagging her off of youtube to read them. So I tried a new approach and took interest in what she was interested in – bloggers, vloggers and youtube and found a cool blogger with a cookbook which I bought her for Christmas – the result an inspired daughter who is making healthy food choices for herself and making me healthy dinners a few times a week now – huge result!!
So based on my experiences as both a mother and health coach/consultant here are my practical tips that I have used personally and professionally on how you can bring healthier habits into your child’s life while keeping your sanity!!
What is your child eating for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, what are they drinking?
Be honest when you look at their diet. If they eat at school ask the teachers how they eat, what do they leave, then check in with them when they come home. If they have a pack lunch is it balanced? Is there anything you can change?
Ensure that all meals are balanced with a good source of protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, lentils, beans, nuts, quinoa, seeds, tofu etc), carbohydrate (whole grains including quinoa, brown rice, beans, legumes, all fruits and vegetables) and fat (avocado, nuts, seeds, cold pressed olive oil, oily fish)
Sugar is basically crack for kids – it is highly addictive and the cause of obesity, tooth decay, behavior problems and associated with many diseases and illnesses. However sugar consumption continues to increase and is hidden in most processed foods.
Be wary of food labels especially and don’t trust anything that says sugar free as it is likely to have another artificial sweetener in place of sugar, which is just as bad! Look at the serving size (be careful here as some packaging is cleverly marketed and the serving size is actually about half the size that is generally being eaten)
1 teaspoon of sugar = 4g of sugar
An apple juice carton which is 250ml may give nutritional information based on 100ml – therefore you would need to multiply the sugar content in grams by 2.5 to get the complete sugar content for the whole carton.
Meet your child where they are
Dinner times are stressful enough at the best of times – so rather than wasting your precious energy on fighting a loosing battle consider what your child likes and doesn’t like, work with the things they do like. If they are a big pasta fan try experimenting with healthier pastas such as chickpea, lentil and wholegrain. If they like rice, can you swap to brown rice, you may need to go 50:50 while the transition – don’t rush them and continue to experiment.
If you have tried to get them to eat broccoli for the last 6 months but they still won’t eat it then experiment with letting that go for now and consider trying different foods and methods (such as hiding it in a tomato based sauce instead) If you are stressed then they will be stressed too and likely not to eat what you want them to so you are fighting a loosing battle – learn to let some things go (for now, as an experiment!)
Have fun and relax into dinner time, the more you relax, the more they will eat (I promise this is true)
Don’t Give Up
I told my story above as it took me 6 years of battling and tears (mainly mine) to reach a place of happy medium where I have found balance and some fun during meal times. It took me a long time to relax into trusting that they would survive and I was doing my best!!
As mothers we are the worst critics of ourselves, which just adds additional stress and pressure on already the toughest job out there. So go easy on yourself, don’t give up!
There will be foods that you don’t want your kids to eat, that you know aren’t good for them but they love and you may even restrict foods already. Find healthy boundaries that work for you and your family. For me, I have a sugar free healthy house and I let my kids have a treat on a Friday which is known as “Sweetie Friday” if they have been good all week at school. I am also not too strict at parties (although watching from afar), I find that giving them a little of what they want keeps them from feeling isolated from the other kids and deprived, otherwise when they grow up they are likely to go crazy and binge on the restricted stuff and have food issues.
Educate them and cook with them
Educate them as much as possible, tell them why they need protein – “for big strong bones” and why they need to eat their greens – “to heal and grow tall” Make it easy to understand and fun. You could also try cooking with your kids as this is a great way to introduce them to new foods and they will be so proud of their achievement they will likely eat it (this works for me every time!)
For the frazzled mammas out there, I have just launched a product called I AM Energised which is a natural vegan blend of superfoods and adaptogens. The blend has been scientifically formulated to ensure maximum effects from the powerful ingredients resulting in improved and sustained physical and mental energy.
words by Naomi Buff – www.naomis.kitchen.com