From day one, parents are their children’s primary nutrition teachers. They are the harvesters, shoppers, chefs, servers and dishwashers. They not only put nutrients on their children’s plates and in their lunch boxes, they also model healthy eating and lifestyle behaviors for them. They have approximately 18 years to let it all sink in and then their children go off and make their own choices. This is one of the many jobs parents have and many don’t realize how important it is to their children’s long term health and wellbeing.
It all starts with breastfeeding, formula and baby food. Then it morphs into finger foods and sippy cups and, finally, the food they eat as adults. And the only way to get each and every stage right is through exposure. Think about it. In order for children to make healthy food choices as adults they need to try everything! They need to try many fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, fats and proteins. They need to find out their preference for soft, sweet, crunchy, savory or salty. A varied diet is ultimately the key to successful healthy decision-making as an adult.
Many studies have shown that parents' behavior is the driving force behind children’s behavior, even when they grow up and move away. Every stage of child development has its challenges, but at each stage there is also opportunity for exposure of different foods, textures and tastes. Where do you begin? Let's start with a healthy recipe for each stage of development.
Baby food is easy to make in your NutriBullet. Just mix a cooked vegetable or fruit with either breast milk, formula or water. Start with vegetables; if you start with fruits, your little one's tastebuds will become quickly accustomed to the sweet flavor and may reject certain vegetables down the line.
Spinach and Peaches Puree
- ½ peach, or ¼ cup organic frozen peaches, thawed
- 10 white beans
- ¼ cup spinach
- ¼ cup breast milk or formula
- Combine all ingredients in NutriBullet and Blast. You may have to adjust quantities depending on desired consistency. (4-6 month olds need a thinner consistency while 8-10 month olds can handle it thicker.)
Toddlers can be a little tricky. Food has to be primarily finger food or something that is easy to eat with a spoon. This is a messy stage of life! Easy to chew bits or foods cut into small pieces are optimal to prevent choking. My favorite toddler food? Dips! Dips give them a chance to experiment with fresh veggies and manage intake quantity on their own, equipping them with independence and ownership of choices - both of which foster good eating habits.
White Bean Yogurt Dip
- ¼ cup white beans
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. mustard powder
- 2 Tbsp chicken broth
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- small handful of baby kale leaves.
- Combine all ingredients in NutriBullet and Blast. Serve with sliced red, yellow and green bell peppers, and sliced cucumbers.
School Age Kids
This is when life gets easier! Your kids can now help you gather the ingredients you need and they can even place them all in the NutriBullet. This enables them to learn about fruits and veggies and gives parents the opportunity to discuss vitamins and minerals, as well as the benefits of healthy eating, like growing big and strong! Kids are like sponges at this age and they are thirsty to learn everything they can about the world and how it works. Nutrition is so interesting to school-age kids because food is so much a part of their lives now. Smoothies are fun to make and when children take part in creating snacks, they are more likely to eat them!
Very Berry Blast
- frozen mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
- 1 banana
- ½ cup skim milk (you may substitute almond milk or soy milk here)
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 1 scoop nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
- Combine all ingredients in NutriBullet and Blast! Can be served as breakfast or afterschool snack!
Pre-Teens and Teens
This group can be quite picky. They have also been exposed to fast food and junk food by now (chips, soda, fried food, etc.) because they spend time outside of their own home and more time at friends' houses, restaurants, parties, sports events and more. It's important for parents now more than ever to consistently offer healthy choices at home. Not only does it counteract what they may be eating when out of your sight, but it also offers consistency with exposure to healthy choices. This is the time I like to offer a colorful salad with a high flavor dressing. It's “adult” food, but with a twist that tweens and teens will love!
Apple Feta Salad
- 1 cup spring greens
- 1 red pepper, sliced
- 1 organic carrot, shaven
- 1 cucumber, thinly-sliced
- 2 Tbsp feta cheese
- 2 Tbsp roasted almond slices
- 2 Tbsp dried cranberries
- ½ red apple, diced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp coarse mustard
- 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1 clove roasted garlic
- 1 Tbsp plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- Combine all salad ingredients into large salad bowl and toss gently.
- Combine all dressing ingredients into NutriBullet and Blast. Pour desired amount of dressing over salad and toss gently again. Serve immediately for freshest taste!
The bottom line is that when parents take the time to plan out healthy, convenient meals and snacks for their children, the likelihood of their children making healthy choices exponentially increases and follows them all the way through adulthood. Inspire your kids to make the right choices by helping them discover foods, flavors and textures they'll love!