Many of you have reached out asking for advice on the kiddos. What do you feed them when their appetites are more skewed towards chicken nuggets and treats? I hear you!
Every parent needs to take their own approach on how to introduce new foods, make food swaps and ensure their child is both healthy and thriving during the transition. Then you pile on food allergies and other health conditions and helping our little ones is a sensitive topic. I get it.
So, caveat, I’m not a doctor, but I thought it might be helpful to share some of the swaps we’ve made with our 4-year old, in hopes that it inspires you too.
- Avoid synthetic food dyes – especially the three most widely used - Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6. They are contaminated with cancer-causing substances. And another Red 3, has been identified as a carcinogen by the FDA but is still in commercial use. Not to mention food dyes are known to cause ADHD, allergies, cancer and a slew of other health issues. Always opt for foods with natural food colorants (likely listed as Tumeric, Beet Juice, Red Current). If this is your #1 takeaway from this post, and you use it to make all future purchasing decisions, you've made my day!
- Opt for organic versions – it’s hard to break free of convenient snack, store-bought options. Just make sure you always choose wisely and go organic for things like:
- organic applesauce pouches
- organic fruit cups (in no sugar added cups & none of that crazy syrup stuff)
- organic raisins, (just not the yogurt ones!)
- organic dried fruit (check the oil used – coconut is best). Trader Joe’s has some great options if you can’t or don’t want to DIY dried fruit too.
- organic juice boxes (Honest Company is easy to find and there are some great other organic varieties at Wegmans, Whole Foods and Trader Joes)
- organic string cheese (ideally from whole milk, and extra points for buying Kosher if you can)
- organic fruit snacks – while there is nothing really nutritious about them, it’s our daughters treat and some commercial brands are a no-thank-you. So we opt for versions that have few ingredients and use natural food coloring. Trader Joe's has a great brand!
- organic mixed nuts – our daughter loves all sorts of nuts. She’ll eat them as a trail mix or as a stand-alone bedtime snack. We started exploring nuts early for her and now she asks for them. Tough for school, but great for home time!
- Choose A2 milk & alternative dairy products– see my earlier post on this topic, but it goes for our kids too. Why start on the road to inflammation, when you can make an equitable swap in the grocery store for them. Even better, introduce a plant-based milk, like almond milk, and see how it goes. Yogurt is still a favorite in our house, I just buy the organic, non-GMO dairy and stay away from the commercially branded yogurts with all of the pretty characters on them. Milk and yogurt are usually a snack vs. a meal.
- Steer clear of corn – another guiding light if you're just getting started is to avoid anything with corn that you can find on a food label. It’s GMO, it’s laced with pesticides and it has no business existing in your kids’ belly’s either. Same goes for corn-based oils like Canola oil.
- Crackers & cookies – I label sniff everything. Basically, opting for a Cassava or Coconut Flour base when I can find it, possibly brown or rice flour, but never corn. Wheat sneaks in sometimes because some of her favorite crackers (like Goldfish) are just a battle to avoid. There are some great options like:
- Cauliflower or butternut pretzel sticks
- Cauliflower or broccoli puffs (similar to cheese puffs)
- Almond flour cookies – most of the organic stores sell great options now if you check the labels!
- Almond flour wraps and crackers – for school sandwiches and dipping! She doesn’t know the difference.
- Honestly SO many more thanks to dedicated aisles in the grocery stores and Pinterest where you can search and DIY your heart out!
- Fresh veggies and fruit are a snack! We let our daughter pick which berries and which veggies, but ultimately, they are part of almost every snack. It’s a balance after all.
- Swap peanut butter for almond butter. This one was quite easy! Barney’s Bare Almond Butter is thicker than most almond butters and helped us with transition away from PB. Check my earlier post for more insights into why this is one of the best swaps you can make for your kiddos. We pair it with organic jam, on sourdough bread or an almond cracker and she loves it. Also goes great with apple sticks or celery sticks as a snack.
- Avoid added sugar – this almost does go with having a child, but let’s face it, the more we try to eliminate inside of our own households, the better off our kids will be overall. For us this means, opting for natural fruit sugars over refined sugars. Whole fruit is best and is offered as a snack (organic mandarin oranges, bananas, lots of berries, etc.). However, most store-bought packaged goods that the kids love, contain a LOT of sugar. Opt for sweetness from natural sources like maple syrup and honey (even monk fruit) and stay away from anything hidden as high fructose corn syrup or the like. You can even find lollipops and popsicles that are fruit based and safer options.
I could go on, but you get the idea. There are tons of resources on this topic too – check Pinterest for starters!
The important part is making sure you child feels loved, not deprived and to make food fun, not a punishment.
You’ll know when to push boundaries and when to accept fate. It’s called parenting!
Oh – and here’s a super fun parenting hack in case all else fails...Bring your own stickers to the grocery store and get busy. You can turn any ‘plain’ boxed food into a Disney Princess or Superhero attraction. Even works on fruits and veggies! Thanks to Jane Stine for the tip!
P.s if you have any recipe or store-favorites, feel free to share them here too!