Let's be clear, the earlier/younger you start feeding your kids real, whole foods, the easier it will likely be to get them to eat them & love them. There will still be hit and miss days where your child won't eat their favorite health food (salmon for example with my boy). That's just life and sometimes they aren't in the mood for a certain food, just like we aren't as adults. It's ok, just be ready with other options or let them have a food break until the next meal (most kids won't let themselves starve, believe me).
And for the record, my son does get a cookie or donut here or there, snacks from friends that he doesn't get at home, and other occasional "indulgences" we have as a family. We eat a LOT of quality food but don't think we are 100% consistent all the time. Because we're not. Ok... glad we got that out there :)
I really promote eating filling/satiating meals (they must have enough protein and quality fats) to not need snacks, but little humans (and sometimes big ones!) still might need a (or two) snack during the day. Here are my favorite real food snacks for kids (or adults) that can replace all the crackers, sugary fruit snacks, and other nutrient-poor snacks running rampant out there. Does it take a little more work? Sometimes but not always. Regardless, you and your little people are worth it!
Real Food Snacks for Kids
- Homemade jerky
- Boiled egg - I boil some as part of my weekly meal/snack/food prep
- Veggies - my son is mostly into sweet peppers right now, sometimes carrots or celery with almond butter, cutting up veggies is also part of my weekly food prep
- Fruit - Berries, apple, orange, banana, etc.
- Organic Yogurt (grass-fed when I can find it)
- Organic Cheese Stick (cut your own sticks instead of pre-packaged and save $$!)
- Nuts - he loves them all: macadamias, cashews, almonds, pecans, pistachios...
- Fruit Leather/dried fruit - I try to make these more of the emergency/on-the-go snacks (that I keep in my purse or the diaper bag) than the regulars since they are mostly sugar and really easy to overeat.
- Freezer dried peas or other veggies or fruits - Just peas!
- Muffins (gluten free of course) - Try out this recipe, this one, this one, or this one... :)
- Leftovers - Especially if he refused to finish a meal previously
1. Don't rule anything out (That goes for adults too!).
Just because they didn't like it (chewed it up and spit it on the floor, like my son sometimes) doesn't mean they won't like it another day. I think it's important to have a couple of options available (particularly vegetables) at each meal when possible and to avoid catering to them all the time. Kids are way smart. If you have a habit of catering, they'll wait you out until they get what they want. Like I mentioned before, kids have "food moods" just like adults.
2. Be a role model.
My son would not eat very many raw veggies but for some reason, when dad offers some that he's munching on, then he's often all for it. Children can be very impressionable, so make sure you're practicing what you preach!
3. Take it Slow
If your kid doesn't have a "real food palate" yet, be patient with them (and yourself) and introduce a new food to try every day or every other. Consider reading Dr. Seuss Green Eggs & Ham with them ;0) Sometimes it helps to prepare a food in a different way or with different seasonings. For example, my son wasn't wanting the eggs I was trying to feed him. I gave him a hard boiled egg and he liked it. I also feed them to him in waffles and muffins (see #5).
Food timing can also affect your success at meal times. It's been found in studies, that feeding kids after running around/playing (recess for example), increased the likelihood of eating their fruits and veggies. Food also tastes so much better when you're hungry, right? Make sure the kids aren't snacking too close to meals either or your battles at meal time may increase.
5. Be the sneaky parent/provider you already are.
There are many ways to sneak fruits,veggies, eggs, etc. into a kid's diet until they become more consistent at eating them on their own. The main ideas I've tried are green, protein smoothies; waffles & muffins (see links to recipes above) that are made with mostly eggs and mashed banana or sweet potato/yam.
Make it fun/enjoyable! Food should nourish but is also meant to be enjoyed. Involve your kids in meal planning, preparing, gardening, picking out the food at the store, etc. Just like adults, kids are more likely to eat something they're invested in.
What are your favorite real food snacks & tricks for kids, big and small?