Talking about food seems like a simple idea, something that you must be doing without even thinking. But its more foundational than we might think. Whether you have a picky eater or if your child loves to try new things how we talk about food to our kids matters. We are shaping their relationship with food everyday, both in our actions and our conversations. With this in mind we’re starting this series of posts to look more closely at how we can be conscious and intentional in our language around food, nutrition, and mealtimes. We’ll also share some easy, healthy kid friendly recipes.
Some Things To Remember About Feeding Our Kids
It’s a big job to be the cook in a family especially when you are feeding little ones who may or may not be interested in trying what you're offering. It can be so frustrating to spend time and effort to make a healthy meal only to have your child flat out reject it. But, we must persevere in our offering of a wide variety of whole foods and keep introducing new foods to our kids. If you're feeling the frustration of mealtimes with young kids here are some reminders to keep you going:
- Parents and Caregivers are in charge of what and when kids eat,
- Kids are in charge of how much they eat,
- Serve familiar favourites with new foods so kids have options,
- Try to eat the same meal together at the table without distractions,
- Stick to a mealtime routine, but make it low pressure,
- And, don’t sweat it if they won’t try it!
Check out the links below to Canada’s new food guide and HealthLink BC for some tips on healthy eating and nutrition for your whole family. If you haven't looked at these resources in a while they are great reminders about getting back to the basics of eating healthy.
Lets Talk Food
We often talk about food with our kids in terms of “good” and “bad” foods or we have a mantra of talking in terms of eat more or less. We might say things like, “eat your broccoli because its good for you.” or “you can’t leave the table until you’ve had two more bites.” But, in these conversations we tend to forget that kids don’t have that background knowledge of food that we have as adults. And, when we put pressure on kids to eat we’re inadvertently creating a negative conversation where they are likely to feel negatively about wanting to eat.
If we change our mindset to a neutral or positive conversation at mealtimes kids may not eat more or try new things, but they will be building a positive understanding of food. Try flipping your words to be more neutral or positive by say, “We eat broccoli because it tastes yummy and it keeps our bones and teeth really strong.” or “supper time is when we eat all the food we’ll need until tomorrow morning, if you’re feeling full you can be done.”
In my house we’ve been changing the way we talk about food to be much more specific about particular food, and as parents we’re learning just as much as our kids. We’ve introduced the concept of appropriate potions, the idea of food groups and the job of each group, and the concept of digestion and what our bodies get out of specific foods. Using language that is age appropriate is important to help your child understand these concepts. Getting kids to help in preparing meals is a great time to have these conversations. Even setting the table gets kids involved, gets them talking, and can get them excited about eating.
Healthy Eating, Happy Kids: A is for Apple
We don’t need to be dietitian to have good conversations about food and nutrition with our children, but a little bit of learning is always good at any age. In these posts about healthy eating we’ll talk about a specific food or nutritional concept and give you some talking points that are meant for young children. And we’ll share recipes and ideas to try with your kids.
Since this is our first post why not start with Apples! Apples are a great food to introduce different textures to your child because they are so versatile in their preparation. Crunchy and juicy when raw, chewy when dried into apple chips, smooth and soft when cooked. It also doesn’t hurt that they are sweet and delicious!
If your child is apprehensive about trying apples in different forms try describing them in neutral terms. You can say apples are crunchy, juicy, sweet, sour, smooth etc. You can also talk about the colour of the apple skins and if you have more than one variety talk about how they taste different.
Two simple facts about apples you can talk about: they are high in fibre and contain vitamin C and potassium. Fibre helps support feelings of fullness, aids in digestion, and supports regular bowl movements. Vitamin C supports a host of functions in our bodies including tissue repair and the functioning of our immune systems. Apples also contain potassium which supports heart health.
Here are some phrases you can use to start the conversation:
- Apples help our tummies feel full for a long time.
- Apples have vitamin C which helps your body stay strong.
- Apples help our skin heal when we get an ouchy.
- Apples help our bodies go poop!
- Apples help your body fight colds so you don’t get sick.
- Apples help your heart stay strong.
Apples and apple trees are abundant on Pender so they are also a great way to connect food and nature. You can point out the apples growing on the trees and then talk to your kids about how food comes from nature.
Apples are such a great way to start talking in a way that lets your kids know food has a job to do in our bodies because they are both healthy and delicious.
Apple Cinnamon Muffins with Crunchy Streusel Topping
These muffins showcase both fresh apples and applesauce and use whole wheat flour to keep your kids full for longer. The added crunch from the streusel topping makes them super fun to eat!
For the Muffins:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup brown sugar (or maple syrup or sweetener of choice)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup grated apple
1/2 cup diced apple
Optional add-ins: 1/3 cup raisins and/or 1/4 cup chopper walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. Grease or line a 12 cup muffin tray with paper liners
3. In a medium bowl stir together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
4. In another medium bowl whisk the eggs. Mix in the sugar or whatever sweetener you are using. Then whisk in the melted butter and apple sauce. Stir in the grated and diced apples. (You can leave the apple skin on or peel it off depending on your preference.)
5. Pour the apple sauce mixture into the dry ingredients. Add in raisins and/or walnuts if using. Stir just until all the flour is combined.
6. Spoon batter evenly into prepared tray, filling each muffin cup about two-thirds full. Top with streusel topping if using (see recipe below).
7. Bake muffins for 15-20 minutes, or until light brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Easy Cinnamon Streusel Topping:
6 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Using clean hands or a fork stir together all ingredients until crumbly. Distribute evenly over the top of unbaked muffins.
Canada’s Food Guide: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/
HealthLink BC: Healthy Eating for Children
Kids Eat in Color: https://kidseatincolor.com/ (note: this website is based in the US and some content may not apply)
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