I get it, instilling healthy eating habits in kids can be challenging. Kids’ taste buds are programmed from a young age by the food industry to crave chemical, preservative and additive-filled foods while we’re over here trying to get them to like broccoli! But childhood is the prime time for laying the foundations of positive and life-long healthy eating habits. We know that our immune system relies on strong metabolic health, which is determined by the foods we eat!
Teaching healthy eating habits to your kids at a young age is essential for their health into adulthood. During my Fast Training week I focused on sugar-free eating for the whole family, kids included! It has come to our attention that not only are 88% of adults metabolically unhealthy, but children as well. 1 in 6 children are obese and 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese. THIS IS NOT OK!
If you are leading a fasting lifestyle, you may be wondering when is a good time to start involving your kids in fasting? That’s a great question. Fasting with kids can be tricky. This is because while we do want to create healthy habits around food, nutrition and health from a young age… We also want to be mindful of when fasting is right for kids.
Here are some tips that will help you determine how and when to involve your kids in diets like fasting and keto with the family.
Make food fun for your kids by involving them!
There are so many ways to get your kids involved in healthy eating habits and food.
- Involve them in the shopping process! Take them shopping, cook with them, and try out the keto way of living with them.
- Make food challenges a family experience. For example, take a week to try removing High Fructose Corn Syrup, sugar, or grains. Doing challenges like this and involving your little ones makes food a playful experience.
- Watch food documentaries with your kids. Some of my favorites are; Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, Jaime Oliver Food Revolution, Master Chef, Anthony Bourdain. For starters, watch this with your kids (it’s SO good!): Jamie Oliver and the truth about what’s in ice cream.
- Stay ahead of boredom! This is a tough one with specific diets. However, there are so many cookbooks out there that you can utilize for new recipes, meals, and snacks for your kids so they don’t get bored with the foods you’re making. Maria Emerich came out with a ton of keto cookbooks that will help you get creative in the kitchen.
Have your kids notice how their food affects their mood.
We have all experienced mood changes based on the foods we have consumed. For example, most of us have seen a child eat an otterpop, or any other sugary food really. We watch the spike in insulin, and then the hard crash afterward. It is common for kids to have a period of adjusting to new food and withdrawals from the sugar.
Moreover, a great way to demonstrate the effect of sugar in your food is to teach your kids about blood sugar! I use the Keto Mojo for testing blood sugar. Show them your blood sugar and explain what the numbers mean and what is happening inside your body. Connect the food your kids are eating with how they feel after they consume it. In turn, this starts the understanding that food can either make you feel great or make you feel awful.
Age and natural eating rhythm matter!
Through cultural conditioning, we have been taught to believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And that we should expect to be hungry as soon as we wake up. In turn, our bodies naturally thrive on a cycle of eating and fasting, (ie. going periods without food.) Instead of dictating meal times for our children, we should ask them when they feel hungry and work with them to find their natural eating rhythm.
That being said, never push your kids into a fast. When they are ready to begin fasting, they will come to you. You do not want to invite your kids to fast with you if they are under the age of 16. With younger children, your focus should be on modeling and teaching them why you fast and what fasting entails, but do not involve them just yet. Allow them make the decision on their own when they believe they are ready to begin fasting.
Teach your kids about macros, not calories
Often times we teach our kids lessons that we grew up with. Unfortunately, many of us learned to count our calories and determine our level of health based on the number we see on our scale. Considering that calories do not always equate to health, I urge you to start teaching your kids about macronutrients rather than calorie counting. When you place food in front of your kid, explain to them what fats, carbohydrates, and proteins do for your body.
A fun way to help your kids understand the different foods on their plate is by using Carb Manager. A quick and easy app on your phone that will help show your kids why they need certain foods on their plate.
The importance of having your kids read labels
One of the best ways to teach your kids food is by teaching them to read the labels. Kids should know how to look for sugar and protein amounts contained in packaged foods, so they can decide for themselves whether those treats or sugary drinks they want at the grocery store are really good for them. Typically, younger kids like juice boxes, graham crackers, cookies, and chips. They will eventually be able to tell you whether or not those foods are good for them. This tool is great for instructing your kids to know what is good and bad in their food so that they can make good decisions as adults.
Have fun with them by turning it into a scavenger hunt! Have them find you the juice box, chips, cookies etc. with the lowest amount of sugar in a certain amount of time.
Establish house rules and outside rules.
Certainly, your home should encompass ground rules around healthy eating habits. For example, we only eat organic when possible in our house. However, when we are eating out at a restaurant or at a special occasion, we have rules that allow kids to enjoy a treat on rare occasions when outside the home. If you listened to my podcast episode with Adrianna Stephenson, one of the profound things she mentioned was stop associating food with a happy childhood. However, we also reward kids with food. I admit, I’ve done it too. We want our kids to behave so we tell them we’ll buy them that candy bar if they do. This is where establishing house rules and outside rules is important, make sure your kids have healthy eating habits in your home.
Talk about how foods make you feel.
It is a great idea to teach your kids to verbalize how they feel when they eat an apple, an avocado versus an ice cream sundae. Ask them questions like, “did you notice how much sleepier you were after that meal?” and “I wonder what was in that meal?” to get them to start expressing how their food is influencing the way they feel. In turn, they will begin understanding the effects different foods have on them.
Pro tip: when discussing food with your kids tie the discussion into something that they care about. For example, if you have a teenager at home, ask them if they have noticed their skin clearing up and tie it into their eating habits.
Fill your kids up on fat and protein.
If you are trying out the keto diet, or have tried the keto diet you are aware of the many benefits that fat and protein have on the body. For example, instead of fruit, try PaleoValley beef stick, raw nuts, or antibiotic free salami. As a result, filling up on fats and proteins will help stabilize blood sugar, and avoid the up and down behaviors in kids that food can create. Good fats nurture the brain, providing kids with a strong foundation of mental and emotional stability through adolescence.
My podcast with Adrianna Stephenson from @keto4mykid has some amazing keto tips for kids she learned during her experience healing her son from brain tumors with keto eating.
If we are to raise healthy children and a healthy future for our communities, we must start training our taste buds and teaching these principles and health conscious mindset at a young age.