Today I had a light bulb moment. After years and years of trying to keep fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean meats in the house, and trying to make exercise look appealing to my daughter, I can actually say that I see the the positive effect it has had on her. Hooray! Ever since my girl was little I felt like I just couldn’t get away from those “kid foods”. You know the ones, mac and cheese, white bread (no crust of course), processed chicken breaded and fried, white pasta with white sauce, and french fries, just to name a few. Everything was refined, processed, and fatty. But that is what manufacturers and restaurants made appealing to my kid. If we were out and needed to grab a quick lunch there was no way Valerie would go for a salad, apple slices, grilled chicken sandwich, or any sandwich for that matter. So what did I do?
I had always tried to keep fresh produce, low fat dairy, lean meats, and unrefined grains in the house, but when Valerie was between 7 &8 I really started to get serious. She was at an age where the nutritional message could actually sink in and she could understand it. Before that I felt like I was just talking to a brick wall. A brick wall that only wanted chicken nuggets. Every kid will be different, but this was our turning point. School, sports, and everyday life was getting more demanding for her and the typical “kid diet” just wasn’t cutting it. Valerie was sluggish most days she had tumbling, she suffered from constant digestion issues, and she said she just felt “blah”.
First things first, fast food had to go. Not entirely, but mostly. We used to let her have it 1-2 times a week, but switched to just 1-2 times a month. Next, snacks like goldfish, buttery crackers, buttered popcorn, and pretty much all those refined carb products stopped making an appearance in our house. They were replaced with string cheese, lots of fruits, individual bags of popcorn, boiled eggs, and baby carrots. There was an adjustment period. Of course there are going to be cravings for white flour and fat when that is what you’re used to snacking on. But now, Val is super excited when I tell her I bought a fresh pineapple and the Costco bag of string cheese. The first positive thing Val noticed about eating healthy foods was that she was not as hungry all the time. Hallelujah! This kid is always hungry. At least now she only requires food every 2-3 hours, instead of every hour :). The next thing she started telling me was that she didn’t feel like a “blob” at tumbling. I guess that was a big thing for her because now she always reaches for a fruit before going to class. So exciting for me as a parent. Then recently I could not believe my ears! We were going out for our monthly lunch and she asked what fast food she could have that was healthy. What? Did I hear that right? So we looked online at the restaurants near her school and it was a challenge. Most healthy fast food is still not appealing to her. But we did find the oven roasted chicken sandwich at Subway. She agreed to try that and amazingly ate the whole thing and loved it. Granted she wouldn’t do any veggies on it, so I brought watermelon. But hey, it was a million times more healthy than what she used to eat.
Anyway, I’m rambling. I just want to encourage parents not to give up. I know how hard it can be to please the picky eater and still get a well balanced meal into them. It can seem impossible. But I wanted to share a couple things that really helped us. So keep at it parents (or wives, if you have a picky husband :)), who knows, maybe one day the light will turn on.