It is not easy making a diet change for yourself, let alone for an entire family. My raw food journey includes my children since they are with me ALL the time, and for every meal of the day. It has been a challenge for me to not frighten my children into thinking that only raw food is good for you. This has consumed a lot of my internal thoughts lately, as I am like every parent out there, and don’t want to do anything that will cause them too much psycho-therapy once they are adults! So, I have come up with some main principles or values that I want my children to absorb and learn about through my raw food journey. These will serve as a reminder to myself, but also I want to share them with you, for it is the journey that is ultimately what will stick in the minds of our children as they grow.
Principle #1: Be aware of what you put into your body.
I want my children to think about what they are fuelling their body with. We started learning about healthy food when we did our first Lapbook years ago. (Visit my other website to learn more about Lapbooking). At a young age, the children learned about foods as either a Red Light, Yellow Light or Green Light. This concept is easy for children as young as 18 months to understand, and they become aware of the type of food they feed into their body.
Principle #2: It’s okay to be different.
Let’s face it, most kids don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. There are children who drink pop on a daily basis and have lunchboxes filled with packaged supermarket treats. This means that any child that brings a homemade treat or eats anything from the garden may be seen by their peers as being ‘weird’. They may even become the target of the class bully. I want my children to be prepared for this, as I think all children need to be prepared for this type of reaction from their peers. In order for children to feel good about what they eat, they need to be confident they are doing what they feel is right for their body and health. They can be a leader, instead of a victim to bullying. Children need to understand why it’s okay to eat differently than other kids in the class, or at birthday parties. As parent’s we can instil this value by empowering them to be a confident leader among their peers.
Principle #3: Let them make age appropriate decisions.
Once the groundwork is set, allow your child to make age appropriate decisions on what they should eat for a snack, lunch or dessert. This could take months or years, but as you spend time sharing with your child the values you have set about food and nutrition, they will start to feel comfortable making these decisions. As parents, we need to at some point stand back and allow them to make the choice for themself when asked at a restaurant or a friend’s house what they would like to eat.
Principle #4: Where does food come from anyway?
Most children (and probably adults) do not realize where their food comes from. (and I don’t mean the box of Oreo’s). Children need to understand that everything that can sustain our health can be grown in the ground or on a tree. We live in areas where we get food from the supermarket, but it grew somewhere in the world to feed us. This is quite an easy job as parents, since just reading the sticker on your produce usually tells you where it came from. You may actually see your children wasting less food, once they understand that the food did not come from 2 blocks away, but that someone picked it with their hands across the world!
Principle #5: Be flexible
If you have ever made a change in what you eat, you know how hard it is to change 20 or 30 years or more of habit! Even though children are young, it is still hard for them, and if you have teenagers even more difficult! This means don’t take everything away all at once. For example, pick one ingredient and remove it from the house, whether it is refined sugar, dairy or bread products. Have them decide with you, keeping in mind Principle #3, and select which items to remove first.
Principle #6: Keep trying
If you think you could never get your child to eat a certain fruit or vegetable – Keep Trying!! Keep them on the table at every meal, or in between meals as snacks. When your child sees you enjoying them (see Principle #7) they will eventually try them. Your child must be exposed to this new way of eating a certain number of times, before they may even be willing to taste it, but don’t give up!
You must enjoy the fruits and vegetables as well….and no faking for children have psychic capabilities when it comes to parental fraud! Snack on them, eat them with supper, and remember to also be flexible on yourself! If your child points out to you that it’s not healthy, explain how you feel that day, or that you will choose a healthier snack next time. Children will understand that you are not perfect, and that it’s okay.
Principle #8: Can my child just eat bananas?
My short answer is YES!! If you have a picky eater that only likes one type of fruit or one type of vegetable, let them eat it until they have had enough! At least they are eating a fruit or vegetable that is healthy for them, and eventually they will try a new one. It is better than the packaged, processed food they may choose to eat if you only allow them to eat small quantities of it.
Principle #9: Have fun and Learn together
Learn about food together. Visit a local farm, or go to your local Farmer’s Market. Take them grocery shopping in the produce section and see if they can name an exotic fruit. Select something new to try as a family and then watch YouTube on how to prepare it and cut it open. The possibilities are endless, and you will laugh and learn together.
Principle #10: Your journey is not everyone else’s
Accept that if you have made changes in your diet, that your spouse or partner may not feel it is for them. If you have older children they may feel they do not want to follow the same route you are. One thing is certain though – – once they all see how vibrant, and full of energy you and YOUR food are, they will want to taste it! It’s amazing what one taste can do for anyone.