Clean Eating For Kids: Make It Work For Your Family
Tiffany Gaston, internationally published fitness model, writer, and paleo cook, is back to share her thoughts on the subject of clean eating for kids. As a fit mom of three, with a specific focus on paleo and general focus on clean eating, we couldn't think of a more qualified voice. Combine the ease of a meal management system with Tiffany's insights below, and get inspired to spread the love of clean eating in your own family.
When simplified, eating paleo means the omission of legumes, grains, dairy, and processed foods. You can imagine how challenging it is to get a child's cooperation in the matter, but clean eating for kids is possible. I'm going to let you in on a little secret: in my home, it's no easier than anywhere else. I would love it if my children were all paleo, but sadly, that is not the case. Regardless, I do have an expectation that they fuel their bodies with good nutrition the majority of the time and stay very active.
While I would love nothing more than to have everyone in my home eat the same meal at dinnertime, the struggle is REAL! I've discovered that their palates have and will continue to evolve, so I've lightened up a bit rather than creating more stress by playing drill sergeant. Having made it tougher than necessary on myself, I have learned over time that you cannot push a string. Change is a process and one that should involve patience. Making clean eating for kids work requires consistency, so don't give up if your meal is not accepted, they profess to hate broccoli, or refuse to eat bananas or anything with a peel. No, you must not cave! Studies have shown that it can take multiple times of introducing the very same fruit, veggie, etc. to finally have a child accept it. Therefore, persistence is imperative.
I regularly encourage my children to participate in the grocery shopping, preparation, and cooking processes. Every so often there is a little glimmer of hope when I create a recipe that takes an ordinary unhealthy kid food and sneakily twist it into a much better version of itself. I definitely don't score with every shot I take, but at least I know I've tried and continue to press on. I certainly didn't eat this way growing up and I have learned to allow for flexibility within my children's nutrition so long as they are active and willing to at least try some new things. Below are a few things I've discovered a few things that work for me in making mealtime manageable for all.
1. Shop together.
The process of shopping for meals together allows for teachable moments. If my child asks for something I don't agree with nutritionally, I offer another option and explain why. I teach them how to read labels and often they are surprised by just how many of the foods they crave are not real food at all! Explaining why one type of food may be better for our bodies than another is an opportunity to bond and learn together. Arming them with information is what will allow them to make better choices when you're not around.
2. Cook together.
Encourage your children to help prepare dinner with you. Allowing them to get down and dirty in the kitchen is fun and gives them a feeling of accomplishment and pride. Learning through participation in the process can help them have a healthy relationship with food. From learning proper food handling, preparing cuts of meat, seafood and poultry, to educating on portion sizes, this process can be invaluable to young creative minds. Memories made in the kitchen last a lifetime, so make clean eating for kids fun and they'll develop a life long love for healthy cooking.
3. Don't provide too many options.
Some may disagree with providing any options at all, but I'm not a total stickler when it comes to mealtime. I'd much rather keep the peace than have to deal with a temper tantrum or meltdown of my own. If you wish to give just one additional option, do what I do and insist that they at least taste a bite of what I've prepared. After all, if you don't know what it tastes like, how do you know you hate it? Pretty sure my own mother said that to me as a child!
4. Sneak it in!
As a last ditch effort in clean eating for kids, hide fruits and veggies in smoothies or sauces you're preparing. The taste of spinach, in particular, is quite neutral and practically disappears when pureed right into pizza sauce or smoothies. You can sit back and smirk when they eat it right up!
5. Don't stress.
You don't want dinnertime to be a point of contention in your home, so try keeping the peace by accepting that things won't always go according to plan. Feel confident in the decision to educate and promote good nutrition in your home, and that's half the battle right there. Getting frustrated only attaches a negative association to the time of day that should be special for a family. Just realize that tomorrow is a new day and another opportunity to improve!
Check out one of my best recipes for clean eating for kids below, and get inspired with more of the clean recipes I share on my site!
Grain-Free/Paleo Chicken Nuggets & Homemade Honey Mustard Sauce
- 1lb. diced chicken
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 cup almond meal
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using 3 bowls, combine all of your dry ingredients in one, beat your eggs in another, and place diced chicken in the last. Dunk the chicken pieces first into the egg mixture and then thoroughly coa5t in the breading/seasoning mixture. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Â½ cup yellow or Dijon mustard
- 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp. organic honey or a bit of agave nectar
- 1-2 tbsp. Sriracha Hot Sauce (optional)
In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together until well blended.