If you have followed us for a while you might remember our post about Elsa’s first meal. We were rookie parents but had an idea and a theory about what food we wanted to introduce to Elsa during her first years. Now 1 1/2 year has passed and we wanted to give you a recap on how things are going and how our theories are working for us, and most importantly, for Elsa.
Elsa is turning 20 months soon. She has still never had any red meat or poultry and she has never eaten any sugar, candy, cookies or ice cream. Around here that counts as something pretty spectacular, and not only in a good way. Many people seem to think that we are exaggerating about health. ”One ice-cream every now and then won’t hurt her”. You wouldn’t believe how many times we heard that sentence. And sure, they are right, she eats an ice cream and life goes on. But why? Elsa has never asked for ice cream, she doesn’t even know how it tastes. During a child’s first two years we as adults choose what food our children should eat. And they learn from this. It’s a responsibility. If someone wants to give Elsa an ice cream, it’s not because she wants it, it’s because they want to give it to her. Remember that.
Our intention has never been to be harsh or mean to her, we have just offered her better alternatives when the other kids got candy. We want to give her a clean start in life, and so far she has never complained about it. The truth is that she loves vegetables, beans and fruit. And as long as we can offer her that instead of an ice cream, we will.
Anyone who has met Elsa will tell you that she is an admirable happy and calm kid. She looks healthy and she has been blessed from almost all normal child ailments. No ear infections, eczema, rashes, constipation, diarrhea, picky eating, irritated bowel, sleeping problems and hyper activity. A part of this is probably just pure luck, but we believe that her diet has also played a role here.
Since many of you have asked us for advices, we’ve put together some simple guidelines and tips on healthy children’s food. These things have worked for us and Elsa, hopefully they can help some of you as well. We won’t quote any doctors or scientists. There are facts supporting our opinions and probably facts who don’t. Believe what you want, that’s what we do.
Here are the basics
Try to reduce or eliminate gluten and dairy products during your baby’s first years. They can be hard to digest for anybody, but especially for young children. Even if they are not allergic or intolerant, many people can react to these food irritants.
No sugar during your baby’s first years. Sugar tastes good but has lots of downsides. It causes hyper activity, lower the immune system and can lead to dental caries, to mention a few. We also have our own theory about sugar. Once you start offering sweets, it will be harder to get children to try things that are not sweet. The longer you prolong the introduction of sugar, the more open your children will be towards trying new foods and eating their greens. Which makes life a whole lot easier for yourself.
If you are a vegetarian, raise your children to be the same until they are old enough to express their own opinion. Why give your child something that you would’t eat yourself? They get plenty of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals from vegetables, eggs, oils, fruit, beans, lentils, seeds and nuts. Give supplements suited for small children (read more here).
Our 10 tips how to give your children a healthy start in life
These tips are generally for 1 year old children and older. If you have younger children you might want to read this post that we did a year ago.
Talk everything through with your partner so you both agree on why you do this. If you don’t agree, every dinner will be an issue. Next step is to talk with your families and to help them out with food suggestions. Otherwise you won’t be invited to any more dinners ;)
2. Don’t make it too hard.
Don’t change your and your child’s eating habits to the impossible. Find a level that you and your family can live with. We decided that Elsa can eat fish when she stays with other families or in day care, even though we don’t eat it at home. It makes life easier for them, plus she get lots of good fats and proteins from it.
3. Be a good role model.
The most important thing is not what food you put in front of your children, but what you eat yourself. That is what your children will want to eat as well. We never make special food for Elsa, everybody eats the same around the table. And we would never eat an ice cream in front of her if we weren’t ready to give her one.
4. Experiment with shape & texture
If a child does not like a certain food, try to cook it in different ways. It is not always the taste that children doesn’t like, but the shape or texture.
5. Boost with vitamins & minerals.
A simple trick to get some extra vitamins in your children is to blend it with their favorite foods. Add vegetable juice in bread or muffins. Shredded vegetables in pancakes. Frozen broccoli or spinach in berry smoothies (they won’t taste it), add super foods in porridge, juice or smoothies (nettle powder, rose hip powder, bee pollen, linseed, sesame seeds, chia seeds, hemp powder, goji, etc.)
6. Always bring a snack.
A difficult part with healthy eating habits is when your children see other children eating something and they want the same. It can be anything from a hot dog to an ice cream. We learned early on to always bring a snack or a fruit with us, so we can offer her that instead. If you look into Elsa’s backpack you will probably always find a hard boiled egg, a carrot, a fruit or some flour free pancakes.
7. Don’t get hysterical.
If you see your child with a cookie, don’t get hysterical and grab it from them, it will have the opposite effect. It’s only food and it is important to get a natural relationship with unhealthy food as well.
8. Encourage eating.
We have been very allowing around the dinner table. As long as she eats, we don’t mind if it’s with a fork, a spoon, a chop stick, a straw or her hands (soup can get pretty messy). The good part is that she eats (almost) anything that we put in front of her. If you set up too many rules around eating you will probably end up with a food strike. Keep it positive!
9. Try this!
Breakfast: Oat or buckwheat porridge with plant or nut milk and berries. Vegetable omelet. Tofu with stir fried vegetable. Bread with bean spread (for example hummus) or tahini. Boiled eggs and banana bread. Yoghurt with seeds and fruit compote.
Lunch: At Elsa’s pre school they cook vegetarian (or fish), dairy free & wheat free meals for Elsa. For example lentil soup, salmon lasagna (gluten free), soy sausages, potatoes and vegetables. Weekends we often eat leftovers, omelet, falafel, bean salad or breakfast twice…
Dinner: Some Elsa favorites; Vegetable stews with black rice, millet or quinoa, gazpacho, coconut milk soups with gluten free noodles, vegetable soups, oven roasted vegetables with dip, pizza, no-rice risotto, sushi salad, burgers & fries.
Snacks: Rice crackers with nut- or seed butters, smoothies & vegetable juices, fruit salad, bean salad, bread with hummus or pesto, leftover porridge, avocado and boiled eggs. Rye or spelt bread with almond butter, Quinoa or corn muffins.
10. Read more.
If you want to read more about the connections between child ailments and food we think this book is pretty good. “What’s Eating Your Child?” – The hidden connection between Food and Childhood Ailments, by Kelly Dorfman. The book is full of up-to-date research, specialists, E.A.T. program, good explanations and is written in a very understanding and helpful tone. All pediatrics should have an ex of this in their office.
Pheew, that was a loooong post. You made it through the whole thing. Congrats. As a reward we promise to have a really nice recipe ready for you next week.