Written by Ashley Erikson, Personal Trainer and Health Coach
Being a parent might just be one of the toughest things you do in life. A few of you might be extremely lucky and you might have children that are absolute angels, but for the rest of us, we tend to deal with cute little devils. Okay maybe not devils, but the point is children, toddlers and even babies aren’t easy to raise for the majority, although we do know it’s worth every struggle and bad day. One area of difficulty in parenting is getting your child to eat healthy food. For some it’s an everyday battle, and the truth is there’s good news.
Nutrition plays a significant role at the toddler stage, and there are parents that get that, and to those parents – good for you and don’t give up. Those vitamins and nutrients are vital for the happiness of your child and they can’t understand that in their young little cute heads. Every area of their little body is developing and it needs the nutrients to support its growth. A lack of nutrients will not only create fussy children but it can lead to a life of health struggles. Push strong health principles now while they’re young and it will help them be healthy the rest of their lives.
The good news for us all is there are ways to compromise with children, to get them to eat healthy, while they satisfy those forming taste buds. That way is by giving them healthy foods that taste really good. After all great health is not just about constantly punishing or taste buds, personally it should involve really good tasting foods that help fill the body with vitamins and nutrients.
1. Goji Berries
Children tend to love Goji berries. Just be careful not to feed them too early so they can properly chew them. They love these little red pieces of pure delicious fruit. This fruit is packed with very large amounts of antioxidants and vitamin C, two things your children will thrive off of. With the Pharmanex technology available that can check antioxidant levels this fruit has been tested and many health experts are now on board with goji berries. These berries can become your child’s favorite snack if you just give it to them.
Blueberries are filled with antioxidants and all sorts of vitamins that help your child thrive even on the worst days. Research suggests they help improve brain function. Serve them as a snack, or blend them together with water and freeze them for an afternoon blueberry ice pop. Blueberries that are dried are such a great snack, go with dried fruit when in doubt.
3. Coconut Water
Instead of soda or pasteurized high sugar fruit drinks, give your kids coconut water. Its filled with electrolytes and natural energy giving them the fuel they need to run around on the playground and at after school sports for hours. Beware that there is natural sugar in coconut water so perhaps no more than 2/day but certainly better than many of the other options. Kids tend to love it and its a great base for any superfood smoothie!
Oatmeal is really good for children and children really love it if you don’t get them hooked on the sugary oatmeal. It’s a fiber-rich grain, which digests slowly and gives your toddler plenty of energy through the morning. Granola also contains oats and makes a good snack when it’s combined with raisins, goji berries and nuts. Oatmeal is incredibly good for kids and is a great source of energy .
The challenge is that most store bought oatmeal is filled with refined sugar and believe it or not, preservatives and additives. As always, read your labels – the less ingredients the better. Packaged oatmeal should not have more than 2-4 ingredients and you should know exactly what they are. Also, check the sugar content. Your best bet is to buy a plain organic oatmeal and add maple syrup or honey to sweeten – then you know exactly what you are getting. Get your child started on really healthy natural oatmeal and it may surprise you how much happier your child will be.
5. Fruit or Dried Fruit
Fruit of any type contains loads of vitamins and minerals for growing toddlers. Dried fruit is just as good. Replace chips and candy bars with berries, melon balls and apple slices. Fruit also contains fiber and keeps toddlers regular. If your budget doesn’t allow loads of fruit, opt for frozen fruits, which also make good snacks for total rehydration.
6. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are a superfood and if they aren’t processed they still are really good. These seeds are packed with valuable nutrients and antioxidants. The best part though is the kids love them to snack on. They work well for a small pre-meal snack because they aren’t going to make your toddler full. The vitamin E is what makes these seeds worth it. Watch out for the salted seeds the high levels of sodium naturally kill off the value these seeds offer.
7. Cocoa Powder or Dark Chocolate
Why have a candy bar when you can have a dark chocolate bar. Young children can fall in love with dark chocolate if you pick the right chocolate. Cocoa powder (which is in dark chocolate) contains a high amount of flavonoids, which are known to improve heart and oral health. Some studies suggest they also protect skin from sun damage. Avoid processed cocoa powder that removes the flavonoids and contains more sugar. Kids can get addicted to milk chocolate, push to start their lives off of on dark chocolate. When they want candy at the store get them the darkest chocolate it will impact their life for the positive. Opt for at least 70 percent cocoa powder or dark chocolate. It might be a little more money but it will pay off.
Other superfoods that kids could benefit from include sweet peas, corn, broccoli, sweet potatoes and avocados. Shredding these foods and placing them in casseroles, burritos and salsas is a great way to hide them all and still give your toddler foods that benefit their growing bodies. Be creative and enjoy!
One Final Thing
Every parentneeds to be the true example to their child. If you’re eating the junk food don’t expect your children to want anything different. It all starts with you as a parent. In this unhealthy world we need parents that are better examples, this will lead to a healthier and happier home.
About the Author – Ashley Erikson
I’m a happy mom of three healthy boys. It’s been a battle but it’s paying off. I know kids can truly be happier if they have the right foods going into them. They’ve taught me many valuable lessons over the past ten years and it’s been a roller coaster that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I started off my career as a physical trainer but recently have begun my journey as a nutritionist. You can view my thoughts and website at AshleysHealth.com