I read something some years ago while I was pregnant with my youngest that changed everything for me. I couldn’t tell you what book it was in, I had read so many at the time, but the basis of it was that the reason children don’t start off eating healthy is because of our own tastes for food. In example, we don’t eat healthy, so they don’t eat healthy, which you have probably read about numerous times. Change the way you do things and kids will mimic you. However, this book started out at the beginning before your child ever had a taste for anything and it made me realize after awhile that changing the way my children eat, changed the way that I ate.
The biggest example I can give is that I hated wheat bread. I couldn’t tell you how much I just disliked wheat bread. I grew up on white Bunny Bread and so did my teen, it was just what sandwiches were made from and our tastes developed into that being the end all be all of any sandwich. Then I moved in with my husband and he ate wheat bread. It became kind of cumbersome to buy two loaves of bread just because I didn’t like wheat bread, then when I became pregnant I had read that book that brought me to writing this and my thoughts changed. It said to start your child off eating wheat bread and they’ll like wheat bread, this way you are starting off with a more wholesome healthier bread. I figured, I didn’t like wheat bread but if it would be better I’d give it a shot. Once my son was old enough to eat bread that’s all he was given and then soon I got to eating it and now I only like wheat bread. Starting him off on a healthier diet changed my diet entirely.
The same thing happened with a lot of other foods. I was only preparing healthy snacks and lunches for my tot and then I started eating them more; it eventually became the norm for all of us. I realized that what my hang-up was with my teen when he was a baby was that I didn’t think he’d like those foods because I didn’t like those foods. I didn’t want to get those foods because I didn’t like them, so in turn I never served them. Eventually his taste buds grew into disliking the things that I disliked instead of the other way around.
There are a lot of foods that I never liked before that I really enjoy now, the biggest being wheat bread and salads. Overtime my tot has grown into liking all sorts of interesting things like orange peppers and blue cheese. I gave him a variety of things, even the things I didn’t like, when he was growing into foods and I (out of laziness at the time to make myself a separate lunch) ate them with him. I slowly noticed my diet changing and as my diet changed, my shopping choices changed and later my teen took to eating healthier. It was all because of this simple idea to change white bread into wheat bread, kool-aid into water.
It is harder to change a child’s desires for certain foods later in the game when they’ve already established tastes for foods. This is mainly for children that are just beginning to learn about food, although it isn’t impossible when done slowly. For my teen I just slowly removed certain foods from the house, first it was white bread, then potato chips, then candy and snacks. Not entirely! Just they weren’t available to him. It was easier to say, “We don’t have that.” Then to say, “You can’t have that.” Chips were replaced with applesauce and fruits just as white bread changed into wheat bread, soda and kool-aid slowly became water and juice and candy was something we snuck out for to get a treat. There is nothing a child loves more than to think he is in on some sneaky business!
Speaking of Sugar. Did you know that if you don’t give your child sweets while they are little, except for fruits every so often, that they generally will not develop what is considered a ‘sweet tooth’? It’s children that are raised eating lots of junk foods when they are young that crave sugar foods. If you rarely, rarely give your child sweets when they are little they will actually prefer non-sweetened foods. We waited until my tot’s first birthday to give him sugar (no chocolate, candy, snack cakes, soda, kool-aid, etc). It was his birthday cake and he did have a sugar rush like I’ve never seen! But you know, he prefers water and he isn’t really big on candy. He likes to have a little cake and a few cookies sometimes, but it’s not a big deal. My teen, on the other hand, grew up with a kool-aid bottle in his mouth and lots of gooey treats and him and I battle tooth problems from them. Your child isn’t suffering if you don’t give them that chocolate cookie until they are a little older. It really boils down to ourselves and our feelings about sweets. Sometimes the best things are worth waiting for.
I think back five years and consider the fact that had I just served myself healthy food and my oldest something else, we would have never gotten here. It was the fact that we all changed, bit by bit and my tot just grew up with those changes – never having had the non-healthy choices to begin with. We can now have snacks, treats and soda in our home with the understanding that those things are not ‘regular’ foods, but just every once in awhile snacks. We have cake and treats on occasion, but they aren’t the all time ‘want’. It’s not as though every meal is a grand healthy dish, we still have Hamburger Helper, Sloppy Joes, etc., but they are meals that are incorporated into the week of healthier meals. Not-so-great-for-you foods become like Fast Food, something fun to have, not something typical.
If you are starting your child out on foods, don’t get hung up on what you don’t like. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean they will not like it. Your preconceived notions on foods can later really determine whether or not your child will desire certain foods later on and in some ways, your dental bills.
I’ve read a lot of things about how to get your children to eat healthier by you eating healthier, that doesn’t work for those of us that are really stubborn, but try it in reverse and see what happens. By exchanging one non-healthy food that your children regularly eat into a healthier food, one step at a time and you may find yourself changing your own habits. It just takes something very simple, like deciding to eat Wheat bread.