As a parent of two wonderful children, I want what’s best for them. Sometimes, I don’t always know what to do. So, I take to the internet for some free advice, researching articles from credible sources, blogs from parents who are motivational and inspiring. Before I became a MN GreenCorps member, I had not heard of Farm to Child Care, but now that I have learned the ins and outs, I believe full-heartedly in this movement. Farm to Child Care connects children with where their food comes from and how it’s grown. F2CC encourages kids to get dirty in the garden and clean in the kitchen, learn about nutrition, and connect all these concepts with maths, science, art, music, and so much more. It also encourages child care providers and children’s families to learn best practices about healthy eating, like being a family-style eating and role-modelling.
So, let's change the concern that a growing number of our kids are going to be obese and start them off with a healthy foundation.
As a parent, you might ask, "I have a picky eater, what can I do?"; I have compiled numerous suggestions, followed by some examples that were found on the internet.
You’re no short-order cook mama
My kids came home from daycare like any normal day, and one was whining about the food on the table. The other one chimed in and said this, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!” I have never heard of this little rhyme before, but I like it. To be brief, you don’t have to make separate meals for them, just because they won’t eat what you’ve made for dinner. Chances are when they are hungry enough they will eat, they won’t starve themselves when you have plenty of good food around. Consistency is key.
Prepare raw veggies for the table, then add a dip or two
My daughter LOVES ranch dressing and ketchup. She probably thinks ketchup is a food group because she eats it by the spoonful. When prepping your veggies, you could try different shapes or create an animal with the different bits of veggies. For example: place cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots or radishes on a plate to nibble. Every now and then pick up a different vegetable, such as an orange bell pepper with hummus.
Fruit snacks, it’s not what you think
If my kids ask for a snack in between lunch and dinner, I already have tangerines and grapes on the table. Much healthier than gummy fruit snacks. One time, my daughter peeled a tangerine, took a chopstick and made a tangerine kabob, now that’s clever, and fun.
Stop buying junk food
This is probably one of my worst habits, and it’s one that needs diligence. My last shopping trip was extremely motivating, as I ended up with nearly half my cart full of fresh fruit and vegetables. Want to know what I did with them? I cut six carrots and two sweet potatoes into little fry shapes and made oven fries. I call one Sweet Potato Apple Pie Oven Fries, and boy they were delicious.
Be a Role Model
The power of parents and providers; your children look up to you. They learn your behaviors, such as the way you cross your legs, brush your teeth or hold your silverware. Be that role model by eating more veggies and fewer cookies. I can attest that it has improved my children’s behavior when given options.
Kids in the kitchen
The more experience children have with holding, preparing and smelling new foods, the more confidence they have to try it, and to cook more in the future. Get your kids into the kitchen! I’ve seen kids as young as a year old using a hand cranked apple peeler to peel apples. Fact: It’s going to get messy, and it will probably take longer to get dinner done, but it’s worth it. The point is, the more involvement they have, the more likely they’ll try something they’ve helped prepare.
Don't give up!
Here is another source of great information for parents about topics discussed throughout the article. “What’s Right for Young Children II: Childcare Gardens”, written by Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/team-nutrition/pdf/ne-garden-bk.pdf
“Enjoy the Benefits of Family-Style Meals.” Page 22
“How do I teach my kids about Good Nutrition?” Page 23
“Keep Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Safe, Avoid the ‘six common mistakes.’” Page 24
“Your Child is Watching! You are a Role Model for Eating.” Page 25
“Quick Ideas for Healthy Meals and Snacks.” Page 26