Getting kids to eat a healthy well rounded diet is important, but can sometimes be a challenge. We recently sat down and talked to Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller about easy ways to instill healthy eating habits in kids from an early age.
How can you help instill healthy eating habits for young kids?
As a mom of two (3 yr old Sterling and 7 yr old Rocco), I know it's not always an easy thing to do, but there are a few things you can do to help.
First, set a good example. Kids are very observant. They will see those veggies left on your plate or
Second, snack appropriately. One issue I found was that our snacks tended to become meals. Then, no one was hungry come actual meal time. Set snack times and keep it snack sized.
Third, let them help. Kids want to be involved. That doesn't necessarily mean asking them what they want to eat. There are just too many yummy choices, so that route often backfires. However, if you let them choose between two "mommy approved" items and let them put their spin on it or help make it, it's a win-win. My son still talks about the blueberry sandwich he "created" when he was three! (Rocco's Recipe: two slices whole wheat bread, creamy peanut butter, fresh blueberries, a touch of honey.)
Do you have a go-to favorite healthy lunch or dinner for the busy mom whose reading this and hasn’t given mealtime any thought?
I'm not a chef by any stretch of the imagination. And like most moms, I'm always short on time. One of my go-to meals is grilled chicken, veggies (whatever I have on hand), and rice. I always have fruit on hand so I may add that or make fruit the dessert with a little whipped cream on top. It's easy and healthy which makes me feel good. The trick is to grill or cook chicken in larger batches so you have plenty on hand for the entire week. You can then use it in soups, add to pasta, or add to a salad. I'm all about quick and easy.
What are some of your favorite baby and toddler meals?
Baby meals were super easy with our son; he'd eat anything. Mashed bananas, any kind of fruit mixed up with cottage cheese or yogurt. Eggs were a staple, even fish and pot roast. It was fun when they were old enough to have finger food because we could get a little more creative. I'm super cautious of choking hazards, so I chopped most everything up that we were eating for years. My goal was to try and create a colorful plate with the types of food I put together.
Do you have any tips for getting 'picky eaters' to try new foods?
We did much of the same with our daughter as we did with our son but she was quite a bit more picky. (Like me!) However, I discovered that it wasn't always the food she was picky about. Sometimes it was the delivery method. She might not want a certain food on a plate, but when I put it in a cup or bowl, she would eat every crumb!
It's important to keep trying. Don't assume that babies or children don't like a food and give up. Keep at it. There are a hundred reasons why it might not have worked that time. But who knows, maybe next time it will.
It's also good to change up the way you cook (or don't cook things). My mom laughs because growing up I wouldn't eat cooked vegetables. I would eat them raw without hesitation, but couldn't stand them cooked or with heavy sauces.
I try not to treat veggies any different than the other foods. And I try not to make it a battle. Meal time is about fueling your body. I talk to them about hydrating their bodies with water, and we eat our "power-punch" peas so we can have a super punch at taekwondo class. Protein builds our muscles (and that's their cue to flex, lol).
So many moms today manage packed schedules! What would you tell that mom-on-the-go to pack in her purse or diaper bag to keep herself and baby or toddler well fed between meals?
I am the queen of purse snacks! I grew up with snacks in my gym bag and my back pack. As adults, we need to have healthy snacks on hand as well. At any given time, I have snacks for the kids and myself. Some of my favorites (and theirs) are raisins, dried cranberries or cherries, string cheese, nuts (age appropriate), pretzels, apples, bananas, Juice Plus+ Complete nutrition bars, and water. I've been known to carry a PB&J or two as well if I think we may get stuck somewhere!