Clean Eating for Kids

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I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the girls and eating lately. So here goes… When Kev and I started eating clean, I wasn’t quite sure how it would play out with the girls. I don’t give them a lot of junk, but they do eat their fair share of cheddar bunnies, animal crackers, annie’s mac and cheese, etc. You know, the childhood staples. Organic or not even those items are processed and have quite a few ingredients. At first I thought I wasn’t going to worry about them as much. I was just going to feed them what was easy. Then I started feeling really convicted over it. If I didn’t want to eat processed food, why would I not care what they ate as well? All of a sudden “being easy” didn’t seem like a justifiable excuse anymore.

It’s been a slow road transitioning the girls, but I don’t think you should ever feel like it isn’t doable. Over the past 2 months I’ve slowly phased out all processed snacks from our house. It wasn’t a drastic change but as things got eaten, I just didn’t replace them. We ditched the eggos (even the vans ones), most cereal, those veggie sticks, pop chips (we make real popcorn), most crackers and carby snacks (brown rice cakes instead), etc… Actually, this change sort of started unintentionally about 6 months ago. Anyone have a kid that every 20 mins is asking for a snack? That is Rowan. I had decided that whenever she would ask for a snack, I would only give her options of fruit and veggies. If she wanted a snack that is what she could have. Sometimes she would say “yes” and sometimes it would be “no” but it was her choice.

Making that small change as far as snacks go helped set the tone for the rest of their meals. She loves almost all raw fruits and veggies and has no complaints when that’s what is offered to her. It’s what she asks for now. Honestly, my kids are picky too. I don’t have super kids by any means. So please don’t think “my kids would never eat like that”. It does take time, consistency and being a little strict at the beginning. I don’t make separate meals for them, I don’t let them choose something else to eat if they don’t like what I made for a meal. There are plenty of times during the day that I ask for their opinions over what food they eat. So at dinner I don’t feel bad about saying “this is it”. If they don’t eat it, they don’t eat it. It will be left out on the counter and later if they say they are hungry, their dinner is what they get. I don’t give in and give them snacks instead. I do take into consideration each kid though. I know Rowan doesn’t love when all her food is mixed. Say I was making a stir fry, I would just grab some of the veggies out and put them on the side next to the quinoa instead of mixing them up like I do for Kev and I.

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I am not above bribery either. If she eats all her dinner she can have dessert afterwards. Which is usually a popsicle, sorbet, or something else we have made from scratch. Popsicles are great. I blend a whole bunch of fruit, flax or chia seeds and freeze in these push pop tubes. They girls love them. I have the Oh She Glows cookbook and I love the almond butter cookies in there. We make those on special nights.

Some days the girls eat like champs and some days it’s frustrating for sure. My saving grace is smoothies. The girls LOVE them. I blend all kinds of fruits, veggies (mostly shredded carrots or beets), hemp seeds, flax, chia seeds, loads of greens and they slurp them right up. Sometimes I want to point and yell “gotcha!”. Finley especially. That girl can not get enough smoothie. A good trick to remember is citrus cuts the taste of greens. Zest or/and juice limes or oranges into your smoothies.

Breakfast favorites:
Homemade whole wheat waffles- we love this recipe! (make a ton and freeze in individual portions)
Scramble eggs with spinach and cheese
Rolled oats with grade b maple syrup, cinnamon and fruit
Yogurt with, raw honey, rhubarb chia jam

Lunch favorites:
Apple and PB sandwiches
cut up fruit
veggies and hummus (hummus is so easy to make yourself!)
beans
grilled cheese- we get loaf bread from a local bakery and cheese from the farmers market

Dinner favorites:
sweet potatoes
quesadillas (cheese and spinach)
quinoa
stir fry

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Note: When we are out at friends I am more lenient with what they eat. I would never be disrespectful and turn something away. The girls may eat what is being served. We do go out for ice cream and they get mac and cheese every wednesday night when our babysitter comes over for our foster care class. Soooo don’t worry that they aren’t getting treats. There is always a birthday, special holiday or something that involves sugary treats.

Even small changes are great! Maybe just start being more mindful about the number of ingredients (and what ingredients) are in what you’re buying. Follow along on instagram for lots of ideas! @jenloveskev #jenloveskeveats

  1. Loved reading this. I don’t even have kids but I have so much respect and admiration for your patience and parenting styles. I’m trying to eat healthier too and it’s good to remember it should be a slow transition to a lifestyle change, not somethingn you do overnight.

  2. I really enjoyed this post, Jen! I’m always interested in healthy eating habits. I may not have kids yet, but most of these meals I feel could even be applied to myself! πŸ˜‰

    Rachel
    Daydream Frenzy

  3. Megan •

    Thanks for sharing, Jen. (Love your blog!) We moved to eating clean about a year ago and while I feel strongly about doing it for our health, it can often feel like a challenge. I home school my 5 kids and my hubby works from home so there are plenty of mouths to feed all day long. πŸ™‚ But I want it to become a way of life and yet not something that takes over our lives. I’m refreshed to see your approach. It can be impossible (not to mention exhausting) to try to control all of everyone one’s food choices outside of the home so we are instead trying to teach them and show them by example. I look forward to seeing more examples of kid’s lunches since this is an area where I sometimes fall into a rut or draw a blank.

  4. Love these ideas. I’ve been stealing some from your Instagram, too! Just ordered those popsicle deals. Thanks!

  5. Karen •

    This is awesome! Great ideas on getting started eating better myself, since I am very picky like a child. You make it look so easy πŸ™‚

  6. Felicia •

    Jen, you’ve talked about being a vegetarian. Do you also raise Rowan and Finley as vegetarians? How do you include protein in their diet?

  7. Thank you so much for posting this! I am a nanny responsible for making lunches, and I feel so bad whenever I give them processed food (and Annie’s Mac and Cheese is a favorite). As I try to transition them into more cleaner eating, posts like this are so helpful!

  8. These are such great ideas!! I am totally going to steal some of these lunchbox ideas for myself! I am always looking for fun, healthy and creative ways to pack lunch. Great tips, and such cute kiddies! πŸ™‚

  9. Love this post. Some great ideas, thank you!

  10. Great job. we aren’t quite as healthy but we do make everything from scratch so we know exactly what we are getting.

  11. Anna McGregor •

    This is so so SO helpful Jen -Thank you! – I have an 18 month old son & he has always eaten what I eat as I followed Gill Rapleys ‘baby led weaning’ so he rarely has any processed food at mealtimes – but I often find its the snacks that I get stuck with! He currently has a selection of those organic puff type thingies but I need to make more of an effort to make things & plan ahead for a few days. Anyway, I wanted to ask you about smoothies – Logan has only had smoothie when I have made one for myself but I’m never really sure what to put in them, what is your ratio to fruit / veg/ liquid? Would you put milk in the girls smoothies or yoghurt? I think smoothies would be a good snack for both of us – and I can ensure he’s getting loads of extra greens. Thank you as always x

  12. Hi Anna! Our smoothie ratio is usually 2 cups liquid (coconut milk, fresh squeezed oj, lime juice/water), 2 cups fresh spinach, 2 cups fruit other veggies. I never measure anything and go a lot off taste but that’s basically what it breaks down to.

  13. I love your clean eating posts and I am currently making a few changes to how we eat as a family too. School lunch boxes are my biggest headache! Most of the snacks you recommend are nut based and unfortunately nuts are a no go at school! Any advice for nut free snacks? Thank you.

  14. lauren •

    I would love to see a post about budgeting for your family. I would love to know if you have any tips.
    Thanks

  15. This has inspired me to be a little more strict about meals. I swore I would never be that mom who made a separate meal for the kids, but now I find myself whipping up Annie’s mac and cheese on the reg! My two year old is awesome with fruits but is hard with veggies, so I am going to start offering them more and more. I love the smoothie trick though and totally do a “gotcha” after she slurps down all her kale and spinach! Love it!

  16. Have you made your own almond milk yet? It’s so yummy. Let me know if you need the instructions (it literally takes me about 10 minutes) I learned that organic almond milk in the store has carrageen in, which is a KNOWN carcinogen. EEKK I learned it’s in a lot of organic processed foods. πŸ™ We’ve been transitioning to eating whole foods only and it is HARD, especially with a selective (sometimes loves greens sometimes wants nothing to do with them..what?!) toddler. We also do a lot of smoothies and she’s onto my greens in smoothies, lol. I found that if I freeze the smoothies in small glass pyrex bowls that she loves to eat them like sorbet…she actually thinks it IS sorbet. πŸ™‚ Love the gotchya comment. so true.

  17. Loved this post Jen! A couple years ago, my husband and switched to a whole foods, plant based lifestyle. Since then, we’ve incorporated a small amount of free range, grass fed/pastured meats (beef and chicken), wild caught fish, eggs, cheese (from time to time) and greek yogurt. We try to eat whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible at home and when we’re out. Like you mentioned, there is always a birthday or special occasion where sugar and processed foods are the only option and we definitely partake. We never feel like the choices we make in our home and in our normal life should ever alienate or insult others when they have us over. It’s kind of a 90/10 % thing for us and we love it that way. Can’t wait to raise our future kiddos the same! Your meal ideas for Rowan and Finley are lovely. Thanks so much for sharing!

  18. I love this…I am currently trying to cut out processed foods for our girls and those with hidden sugars. Found this so inspiring! We are currently in the ‘strict’ phase as they are so used to getting little nibbles now and then…hope we last!!

  19. lianne korte •

    Love this post! Thank you so much.

  20. Tiffany •

    I try eating as little processed foods as possible too… but goldfish is our crutch in our house. I’ve often wondered about making our own crakcers so I know what ingredients are going into them. Have you tried this?

  21. Sara Mack •

    Great and helpful post Jen! Thank you! Fantastic visuals too πŸ™‚

  22. Ashley •

    This is wonderful! We don’t have kids yet but it’s nice to see that you are making steps to ensure your eating more mindfully for both you and your girls! And your presentations for food are beautiful! Makes me want to make pretty food for myself everyday!

  23. nadya kotik •

    just found this blog looking for recipes for my nieces. Thanks for all the info!

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Hi, I'm Jen!

Welcome to my personal lifestyle blog. It features topics such as motherhood, family life, fashion, cooking, and all sorts of adventures. I hope you enjoy what you find!


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