A Healthy Start

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.

1. Agree.
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 risottosushi 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.


  • Emma
    Would you consider giving an updated version of this, now that you'v have three children? Would be really interesting + helpful!
  • Bri
    I come late to your blog but I had to comment on this post--I really appreciated your balanced, positive, non-preachy attitude to feeding your child, because turning food into a power struggle with a child is a lose-lose scenario that sets everyone up for heartache. I have an enthusiastic and adventurous eater, and I'm convinced that not taking food too seriously was an important part of that. Encourage your kids to play with their food and play with them! We have a running family competition as to who will find the most peas in their pod--record so far is 12--but you have to eat the peas for the score to count, who will pull out and eat the longest carrot from the garden, etc, and I have fed picky eaters a full plate of veggies (that they won't eat at home) by offering them a reverse dinner--dessert first (of course in my world, dessert was a small portion of fresh fruit or maybe a small banana-chocolate pudding serving) but it left the kids feeling like they were definitely getting away with something. My son, who as a toddler didn't actually much care for cabbage, would eat portions of it or green beans in order to "load the weapon"... and boys can't help but be seduced into trying "blood" oranges (apparently they taste "radioactive") or "monster cauliflower" (romesco cauliflower) or purple potatoes... Salesmanship matters as does respecting that not everyone will like everything, and that's OK. Children need multiple opportunities to reject food, and sometimes they change their minds just like adults do (or the texture issue goes away in a different preparation). Fast forward 10 years, and our son started cooking with us for real (aka can use big knives and the stove/oven on his own) and since the age of 12 he's made the family dinner once a week--he chooses the menu, gets a cooking lesson for anything new he wants to learn to make, and with wonderful results. Families sharing good food made with love is what it is all about. Thanks for your blog.
  • […] quite the happy eater. He is stuffing his face full with most food that we put in front of him. Just like Elsa did when she was younger. Now however, she has become rather selective with her food. A lot of dinners are spent listening […]
  • […] eater. He is stuffing his face full with most food that we put in front of him. Just like Elsa did when she was younger. Now however, she has become rather selective with her food. A lot of dinners are spent […]
  • […] Green Kitchen Stories » A Healthy Start – Hi friends. Thank you so much for your sweet, touching and personal notes on our post about giving children a healthy start. Reading your comments … […]
  • […] quite the happy eater. He is stuffing his face full with most food that we put in front of him. Just like Elsa did when she was younger. Now however, she has become rather selective with her food. A lot of dinners are spent listening […]
  • […] quite the happy eater. He is stuffing his face full with most food that we put in front of him. Just like Elsa did when she was younger. Now however, she has become rather selective with her food. A lot of dinners are spent listening […]
  • Jasmine
    Thank you so much for this article. I was wondering if you had any recommendations for baby/toddler recipe books you have come across that follow this kind of diet?
  • […] Siehe hierzu auch Greenkitchenstories-A healthy start […]
  • […] This was my inspiration for this post and offers a great list of tips to help stay on track and make life easier. A must read!  https://gkitchenstories.com/a-healthy-start/ […]
  • Harriet Phillips
    I am an avid follower of Green Kitchen Stories and love all your receipes both on the website and in your book. But I owe you an enourmous THANK YOU for your reference to “What’s Eating Your Child?” – The hidden connection between Food and Childhood Ailments, by Kelly Dorfman which has been re-published as "How to cure your child with Food" - this is an incredible book - I nearly cried reading it as I could relate so much to the content having a three year old son with intolerances to dairy, soya and gluten. In the UK GPs and Paediatricians do not pay much lip service to food intolerances in children - I was told my son who was constantly ill, picky eater, developmentally behind and seriously controlling - was just badly behaved, grumpy, spoilt and I needed to be more strict and that I was neurotic (possibly :)!) ... the list of accusations go on. Finally he was diagnosed with a dairy intolerance at 13 months by a private hospital in London (last resort!) but it has taken another 2 years to identify gluten and soya intolerances as they are less severe (he can't tolerate any dairy at all in any form). This book is not readily available in the UK, but it should be and as you righly point out it should be on every Paediatrician's and UK GP's bookshelf! Thank you so very much I am eternally grateful as it has been such a relief to find someone who has actually put pen to paper and essentially written the journey I have been on for the last 3 years but with so much more advice and guidance. Thank you.
    • Well done Harriet. As parents of a 15month old daughter it is so important to keep open-minded and explore natural holistic, parenting choices. Who would have thought, we in the UK could forget so quickly the wholefood movement in the 70s! Congratulations on searching for answers.
  • Safa
    Thank you so much for sharing, it's really inspiring to hear how you have given Elsa such a fantastic diet! I'm a little late reading this post because I just found it (I was thinking of asking you to share how you feed Elsa because I didn't know this post existed!). I know a lot of parents who start out with the same ideas, and very quickly start giving up because it's too hard. One issue I know a lot of parents face is what to do in situations where there are other children (say, a birthday party) and other children are eating something like ice cream, cake, cookies, pizza, and your child sees. How have you managed in these situations? I would really appreciate your advice! Thanks :)
  • [...]  as one of my favorite blogger couples, Luise and David from Green Kitchen Stories, wrote in their wonderful article: if someone wants to give our baby a cookie, it is not because baby wants it, but the person wants [...]
  • elsa
    Thanks a lot for this blog and i have to say that even though I completely agree with you, there are some times when it doesn't go the way you want. For me the first one went to day-care at the age of 3 months, and they refused to adapt the meals for her (same for the second one, who is still there all day, 5 days a week). But it's so complicated to have a place for a kid in day-care that we simply couldn't say no the this one. Or I would have to leave my job and then I would have had no help from the government (as I arrive in the country already pregnant and hadn't work enough to get parental leave or help). Then there is the problem of school. My fist daughter is 4 now, but even if there is a vegetarian meal at school, it makes kids feeling apart from the other. What is the worst 4 days with meat and friends or kids not fitting in ? I sincerely don't know. And the last points are the grand parents. in my family and my step family, they consider potatoes to be vegetables. And they make an effort for me to take the sausage out of the soup before serving it... They just don't get it. And as they are helping us a lot by taking the kids for vacation, the kids already know sweets, meat, ice cream... I'm sorry it's long but I would be interested to know how you manage with school and family? Maybe your country is more advance on theses subjects that the one I live in (Luxembourg, otherwise known as sausage, lard and potato country...) OTherwise, I would like to say that you blog is very appealing and I hope that your book will be translated in French, and if not at least with some measurements in grams and not only cups.
  • This blog is absolute GOLD - I've been experimenting with different GF/DF recipes since I was 16 [due to some ongoing health issues] & am a firm believer that a child's development & overall wellbeing can be improved dramatically just by feeding them what nature intended! My husband & I have had many a discussion about what foods we'll encourage for our kids & the advice you've given I think is right on the mark! Thank you for sharing it ay! Elsa is a lucky girl to have such keyed-on parents!
  • Dani
    What a brilliant post. You have put down into writing everything I want for my child(ren) when I have one someday. Elsa is a lucky girl and she will thank you one day. :)
  • Liz
    im just starting to read through all your old posts as I'm new to your blog and I absolutely love this one. I'm pregnant with my first child and have every intention of raising it as a healthy little vegetarian with minimal if any dairy and no sugar at least in the early years. The thing I am most concerned about at the moment is how I will go about stopping family and fiends (none of whom eat the way I do and think I'm a mad hippie) from giving our child lollies etc. I'm sure that even if I ask them not to some people will still give my child foods that I don't want them to touch as a small child. Did you find your family and friends to be supportive once you told them your feelings about feeding Elsa sugar etc, or did you find some still try to give her sweets etc?
  • Love this! When my husband and I have kids this is for sure how we will raise them!!
  • [...] Kitchen Stories shares guidelines and tips for feeding kids a healthy diet, based on their 20-month old’s eating habits. “She has still never had any red meat or [...]
  • Ines
    Hello to the three of you! Thank you so much for doing this post. I admire that dispite what other people around you say or think, you still stick to your believes and follow your heart doing the best you can to give Elsa a lovely and healthy start. I find it hard myself and a bit annoying to have to explain people the reasons why i don't want to give sugar and other kinds of food to my daughter. But anyway...one thing, or better, two things i want to ask you are: 1. i don't know how it is in Sweden, but in Germany there's a bit the controversy about oils. Most pediatricians, midwifes and so on, say that in the first year of life, it's almost "forbidden" to give babys oils that are cold pressed. They say you should definitly only use refined oils. How is it there and how did you guys did it? 2. Did you started giving Elsa from the begining on all this variety of fruits and veggies, or was it a slow process, introducing one thing at the time? Oh, i do have a third question (sorry, too much to ask)...What about food that you can buy already made? Did you cooked for Elsa all the time, or you also gave her this "in-a-glass baby food", that you can by at the supermarket? Ok, that's it! Would be great to hear your thoughts... All the best.
    • Hi Ines! Thanks for your comment. I stopped explaining quite early. My only answer was/is: "She is only 1 and doesn't even know what cake or ice cream is, why give it to her?"... 1. Pediatrics and holistic nutritionists in Scandinavia recommend cold pressed extra virgin oils, add a spoonful to each (lukewarm) meal when serving. 2. We introduced elsa to fruit and vegetable from 6 month, started with mild flavors, one at a time and then mixed and then added spices and herbs. 3. We cooked most of it our self, but sometimes we bought ready made baby food in glasses at supermarkets or health stores, there are many good organic brands with good quality, but it can be hard to find it vegetarian. All the best & happy cooking. /Luise
  • [...] A Healthy Start by Green Kitchen Stories: This article is primarily about giving your children a healthy start, but I think the principles can apply to all of us. I certainly want to try out some of their adorable daughter’s favorite recipes! [...]
  • I don't have children and won't be any time soon, but I think this advice can apply to anyone. I wish my eating habits had been formed in such a clean, healthy way. As it is, I have to work hard to crave the right things. I may make some of Elsa's favorite recipes for myself. Thank you for sharing. Your blog is always wonderful. :)
  • Paulina J!
    Thanks for this article! I recently went gluten free and have minimized dairy and feel 10 times better and have lost weight. My mom in law recently came to visit and after repeating multiple times that I wasn't consuming any wheat or "traditional" flour products, she cooked everything without taking me into consideration. I have learned my lesson and now will carry my own fodd and ingredients when we go visit since they eat like crap anyway. I'm going to have to be a bit more explicit with our wishes once we have a baby.
  • Lillemor
    What a motivating article! I am so proud of being the grandmother of Elsa. I enjoy every meal that we have together. She really loves food, and vegetables in particular! I have learned a lot of good healthy cooking from David and Luise, so thank you for being such superior parents!
    • What a most beautiful reply from a Grandparent! Support and affirmation is what most parents need, not the critical voice. How warming to read. Thank you.
  • Sharon
    I was not given any sugar or salt until I was 2 and started daycare. I only ate home made meals my mom prepared and I turned out fine. More than fine, I guess, because till this day my favorite things in the world are vegetables and I would pick them over things most people find tasty, like fast food or cake. To be honest, I don't really like sweet flavors that much and super salty, greasy stuff is not my food of choice. My point is, not every kid likes cake and McDonald's. I hated fast food as a kid and I always brought my piece of the cake home, because I HATED cake. I'm still ambivalent towards it today, but as a kid I marveled my parents, because I never asked for cookies or fries and I always had seconds of brussels sprouts or broccoli (or replace it with anything a kid should hate). Till I graduated high school I always brought water (I wasn't given any soda and I never developed a liking to it either), an apple and a sandwich to snack during recess. I was the only one who did that and the other kids always tried to trade their fries or cheetos for a bite of my sandwiches. This is getting too long, so I simply want to say that not every single kid likes things like ice cream, for example and if she develops a liking to it, she will have it in the future, but since she is a toddler I think it's much better to feed her a healthy diet, so she gets acquainted to a variety of flavors and textures instead of hooked up on sugar.
  • Thanks so much for sharing. It can be hard dealing with other people's judgements on what we feed our little Piper, and this is a great resource. Thank you. Also going to pick up a copy of that book!
  • This is great, I love your point about ice cream. We've been going through a lot of similar things with Paloma. She is just fine not eating birthday cake since she doesn't know how it tastes, but people often think we're being mean or depriving her of something. Thanks for this post!

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