Our son eats sardines, olives, cashews, pears, coconut butter, deer steak, I mean, you name it. The kid likes to eat and he loves real food. It's not luck that he enjoys food grown from the earth, food without additives. It's all he knows. That's what we keep on hand. His taste buds have not been spoiled or tricked by packaged goods with 30 grams of sugar or coloring.
Some may think this is a little over the top, but I didn't know how I would be a normal functioning adult eight years ago when I was eating the Standard American Diet (SAD). It's my responsibility as a parent to show him real food and set him up for good health and I take it quite seriously. When we feed our children real food, we are investing in lifelong wellness and often happier children. August has never taken a medication in his life, which is rare for a two year old in 2018. He easily adopts new, funky foods put in front of him and he thinks dates, Larabars, and apples are treats. He wouldn't even know what a lollipop, Mountain Dew, or Pizza Pockets are.
The Very First Foods
We started food introduction at 7-8 months with some lightly cooked egg yolk, pureed chicken liver, banana, and avocado. We then worked him into a variety of other foods (pureed): spinach, broccoli, beef, broth, peas, apricot, and the list continues. We gave him a lot of variety and homemade every single bit of his food. We decided to puree instead of baby-led weaning because it seemed much easier for him to digest, an easy way to put multiple things and more nutrition in dishes, and less mess to clean up. We followed a good portion of Weston A. Price Foundation's advice for food introduction and did not introduce any grains (oat, corn, rice, etc) before age one. After age one, we soaked the grains. The soaking of grains is a traditional practice that removes anti-nutrients (phytic acid) and releases more nutrients from the grains. It makes it easier for your little one to digest something that is often problematic for people.
I enjoyed creating different flavors for his little palate to experience and had fun adding in herbs from my front porch pots. And guess what? They boasted of nutrition I was not even aware of! Here's two just to name a few:
- Cilantro helps control blood sugar, cholesterol, and free radical production. It helps stimulate digestion and is an amazing source of Vitamin A.
- Oregano is a nutrient-dense herb with effective antibacterial properties. It's an excellent source of vitamin K and a very good source of iron, manganese, and dietary fiber. To name a few!
(source: Sprout Right book by Lianne Phillipson-Webb)
Don't be afraid of fats and animal products. I know the trend lately is plant-based, but my concerns are 1) as a civilization, we were thriving off a diet filled with animal products. Only in the last few decades have we had the rampant disease we have. Are meats new in the last few decades? No. 2) There has never been two generations of vegans to walk the earth. That being said, I do enjoy knowing how to cook vegan meals and also knowing how to cook like the pioneer woman with a roast.
no kids menu needed
I think some people believe August and kids like him are missing out on a piece of childhood, but that's because, as a society, we've come to prize sweets and treats and the pleasure food brings over robust health and vitality. We need to redefine what makes a great childhood. It's no longer about having a coke bottle with a straw, cotton candy at the baseball game, or Gatorade at the basketball game. It's experiences. Unforgettable family trips, getting outdoors to get hands dirty in the garden, and quality time reading books at bedtime. People are strapped for time so slowing down to do meaningful things, like prepare real food and have undivided attention for our children have gone to the wayside, which is why they are like gold now.
Currently my son eats whatever we eat....Ham & Beans, Butternut Squash Soup, Shepherd's Pie, Spaghetti, Shrimp and Grits, Greek Salad. I do alter what he's given if he's been turning his nose up at something. For instance, he turned his nose up at sweet potatoes more than once, so I spiralized them and he started to get excited and enjoy them again. I'm all for making food fun and exciting for kids, so get creative! And if he liked an item last week but not this week, I don't fret. It doesn't mean he doesn't like it. He quickly gets sick of foods when on repeat, so I just cycle it out for a few weeks and introduce again in another dish or form.
I think when children are adventurous with food like August is, it is much easier to change the diet when necessary for allergy or sensitivity issues. For instance, we had to go egg free this last month because of bumps August had on his legs and arms, and we were able to do that quickly and without fuss. He didn't even notice they were missing (even though we ate them every single morning) because he's got so many other options.
Augster's Plate Examples
I often prepare three to four foods for August at each meal, just to make sure he's getting a variety of nutrients. I focus on fat and protein and make sure there's some green color and hopefully another color on his plate. He doesn't always clean his plate; he often declines one or two items on his plate and that's okay. The important thing is to offer a variety, don't assume that they won't like it, and get them used to seeing and testing out real food.
I know offering three to four items at each meal sounds daunting to some, so if all you have time for at breakfast is some organic oats with coconut butter, then congratulate yourself and feel good about what you're feeding your child. Ain't no mom-shaming here. I am happy if you're just trying!
- Eggs, of course! We love eggs in many forms. Poached on top of sweet potato rounds, over easy with rice and salsa, scrambled with kale and other veggies
- Soaked Oatmeal w/ apricot butter, coconut butter, or mixed berries (I use frozen)
- Berry Crisp from Wellness Mama (I don't serve this alone; it's more towards the end of breakfast after some protein and fat)
- Sweet potato w/ sunflower butter
- Italian herb potatoes, any kind of potato chopped roughly, sprinkled with olive oil and a mix of herbs and oven-roasted
- Sausage or bacon (duh), but sourced from a local grassfed farm
- Chocolate chia seed pudding or other variations of chia seed pudding
- Homemade yogurt (cow's milk or coconut milk)
- Sourdough toast with anything on top!
Many of the snack ideas below are great for breakfast too
Kids are growing and using up so many calories that I let August tell me when he's hungry and am not hesitant to give him a snack. On a daily basis, he gets snacks like: plantain chips with guacamole, olives, sprouted muffins, sauerkraut, celery with peanut butter, trail mix (like crispy cashews, raisins, and large coconut flakes). I try to avoid fruit for a snack and serve that with dinner because it's not very filling or satiating on its own. I see many resorting to fruit as the snack of choice for kids. They love it, I get it. But aim to get some protein and fats in the snacking and it will provide less sugar crashes and more nutrition.
- Plantain or sweet potato chips with guacamole. My new mandoline by Oxo makes this so much easier.
- Trail mix. I mix these up in jars and keep on hand to grab & go: almonds, pecans, cashews, large coconut flakes, raisins, dried cherries, pumpkin seeds are some of the items I add to the mix. (I soak my nuts before dehydrating them)
- Coconut biscuits or muffins (I soak my wheat flour for muffins too)
- Olives (green or kalamata he will eat plain!)
- Hard-boiled eggs. Portable. Filling. Versatile. Need I say more?
- Cucumbers, snap peas, or carrot sticks with homemade ranch dressing
- Cheese cubes; I use cheese from Canal Junction Farm since it's unpasteurized
- Beans of all kinds, cooked or roasted. These garbanzo beans for kids look fantastic (I soak my beans before cooking)
- Tortilla chips w/ guac or salsa; I prefer Honest Jackson's Tortilla chips when I can get them since they are soaked in lime juice and makes the grain easier to digest. But if I can't get that, I get organic. I don't give these to August regularly; they are a treat.
- Popcorn; I also buy this organic and we pop it on the stove in a pot. It's delicious and we add nutritional yeast. This is a treat item too, like for a movie on the weekends.
- Larabars (I don't want him having these everyday, but they're decent snacks for on the go)
Sourcing Great Food
Best: Local Organic
For your meats, cheeses, and other pantry goods: Canal Junction Grassfed Farm (C/J Meats)
Black Creek Organic Farm - better than organic practices, this local duo of Kristin and Levi boasts of practices brought all the way from Kauai, as they spent seven years there learning on an organic produce farm. email@example.com or find them on Facebook
Master Plan Farm in West Unity/ Bryan, Ohio -
Next Best: Store Organic
Three Rivers Fort Wayne Co-op (They source a lot of local organic)
Next Next Best: Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen Lists
Buy from the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen lists that the Environmental Working Group publishes each year; they monitor and test produce all over the U.S. each year to find which foods contain the most pesticide residue (dirty dozen) and which contain the least (clean fifteen). So you should buy the dirty dozen ones in organic, if possible and you can buy the clean fifteen in non-organic varieties to save money.
I'm with the Whole30 crew that says if you can only buy select things organic/ grassfed, then buy your animal products at top-notch quality and then get lesser quality of produce. I want my animal products to be the best because the ingredients in store-bought lunch meat and such just gives me the creeps. It's nasty stuff.
Raising Them to Make Their own Choices
I'm sure some parents that have raised children with intentions to eat healthy are thinking "yeah, just wait until he sees cake and ice cream. He won't be eating sardines anymore." And that may be true; I may come up against some opposition when August gets older and experiences more tastes and sees what his friends are eating. However, I know of one example of a grown kid that enjoys making healthy decisions. Reese is 10 years old and she excitedly chooses healthier options. She was raised with semi-healthy options, but as she got older and gained insight on what foods did to her body, she started to ask more questions and get excited about making fermented veggies, eating her greens, and making wholesome snacks. Like any normal kid, she enjoys cake at birthday parties and "junk" every so often, but she keeps to the course on a daily basis.
I will do my best to raise him to see the connection between growing real food and how it gets on the table and then impacts our bodies. When he is of age to understand this, I'll let him decide what he wants to eat at parties, gatherings, and cookouts. I don't want him thinking we are depriving or sheltering him and I do want him to be able to exercise his ability to choose. But, the options we keep on hand at home will be nourishing, wholesome, and fresh. As for me and my house, we will eat real food!
As I say at all of my events, I don't expect anyone to be a rock star at all of these things, but if you can implement a few changes every six months, you'll end the year with big strides. I'm not a total rock star at this myself. I don't want to be obsessive about it and pack food everywhere we go and monitor every bite. I let some things slide when we aren't in our daily routine and I think that's just fine.
One of my goals for our family's health this year is to get a garden going. I am not good at growing things and don't have a knack for it, but I believe that is one of the most important acts you can do to revolutionize your health. Not to mention, getting your kids to see the miracle of growing your own food is a huge benefit. Getting his hands in the dirt and getting my hands in the dirt is good for the body and soul. I am convinced of that.
Cheers to nourishing our babies and children well,
- Beetroot Brooke
**If you would like to share your story of raising your children with real food or even trying to introduce real food to your kids, please do share! I'd love to hear your experiences.