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5 Tips to Get Your Child on a Healthier Diet

I recently spoke with a mom who said, “I know his diet [her son is 4 years old] is a major contributor to his sleep problems and behavior issues…he never drinks water [only soda and sports drinks] and is a big fan of “white” foods, but he’ll go on a food strike if I try to get him on a healthy diet!”

Yeah, you can’t really expect a child to happily hand in his box of Oreos for a green smoothie.

BUT, you can make better choices, that over time will improve his diet in a big way!

Why is this so important?

Food does more than feed your body and keep that tummy from grumbling.

When I talk with parents about their children’s sleep issues, food always comes up. What they’re eating and when can play a huge part in behaviors at naptime and bedtime, frequent night wakings and waking too early in the morning.

If your child is eating the right foods at the wrong time, or just too many unhealthy foods, it will certainly affect his behavior and sleep!

But food affects so much more than sleep.

Did you know that…

Cutting out artificial dyes from the diet was shown in one study to improve behavior in 75% of the children?

Caffeine is hiding in some crazy places? And here are some other surprising other culprits!

Insufficient sleep and obesity are related? And with the rise of obesity is a correlation to more diagnoses of sleep apnea

There are foods that improve memory!

Food plays a roll in learning and performance in school!

There are so many stats, research studies and articles on food and its affects, I could share them until the cows come home.

But I bet you’re more interested in HOW to make some changes!

Here are 5 tips to get your child on a healthier diet:

Image courtesy of Simon Howden |

Image courtesy of Simon Howden |

1. I’m a huge fan of eggs, especially because they’re packed with protein and keep you feeling fuller longer.  But my kids wouldn’t touch scrambled, hard (or soft) boiled, pouched or fried eggs, so I had to get creative, because I knew cereal wasn’t the best option. I found a way to prepare them that they now beg for. No kidding. (I’ll be sharing that recipe in the “Breakfast” article, don’t worry!)

Take away tip: Take one food that your child doesn’t like and get creative–Figure out a new way to make it that he or she will love!

2. My kids were apple juice addicts. We would go through a 64 oz bottle of apple juice within 3 days. Even though I buy organic juice, that’s still a lot of natural sugar in each glass. So I cut it with water. And then I started researching alternatives for something sweet and healthy, with more vitamins, but without all the sugar and artificial flavors and colors (that are in sports drinks)…and I found an amazing substitute! (More on that in next week’s “Drinks” article!)

Take away tip: If there’s something in your child’s diet that you want to change, find a substitute that tastes good and is healthier!

3. My kiddos love muffins. If they have cinnamon, a crunchy top or some kind of berry in them, they’ll snarf them down in a nano-second. So I took a basic muffin recipe and added some healthy ingredients that would decrease the sugar, and maybe even get them to eat some foods they wouldn’t normally eat if they were staring at them from their dinner plate. Just think about that one food that your child loves (muffins, pizza, tomato sauce, smoothies, etc.) and figure out how to incorporate some healthier ingredients into those dishes. (I’ll be sharing my favorites in the “Snack” article in a few weeks!)

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane |

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane |

Note: I don’t “hide” veggies in things, although if my kids never ate a veggie, I probably would. Ever since they were little, when we make something out of the Deceptively Delicious cookbook, they are helping me mix in the veggies. So no “deception” at our house!

Take away tip: Figure out your child’s go-to food and see what you can add to boost the nutrition!

4. The day I decided to bite the bullet and veer away from the traditional kid menu foods (grilled cheese, hot dogs, pizza) and get the kiddos to eat “our” food, a friend and chef posted this article on her blog: Breaking The Picky Eating Habit in Kids

I immediately had the kids make their charts and wowsa, it worked the first night?!

Take away tip: Set up a system that will entice your child to try new foods!

5. About a year ago, I went gluten free for medical reasons and have never felt better! But when I was first faced with cooking without my favorite ingredients (90% of my fav recipes included whole wheat flour!?), I didn’t retreat to the couch with a package of (GF) bonbons and sulk. [Ok, maybe I did for an hour :)]  I started researching online and checked out a bunch of cookbooks from the library and started to make some lists. Once I had resources from people who had gone down this path before, I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. I found a ton of recipes that I could eat and that my family would love. (Yup, I’ll be sharing these too over the next few weeks!)

Take away: You’re not alone in trying to make your family healthier. If you’re willing to make some changes, there are a tremendous amount of resources to get your family on track.

Over the next 5 weeks, I’ll be sharing my favorite tips and recipes for drinks, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

Foods that are:

  • healthy
  • easy to make
  • AND your kids will love

    Image courtesy of Praisaeng |

    Image courtesy of Praisaeng |

No easy feat! But these are tried and true, taste-tasted at playdates and approved by even the pickiest of eaters.

So if your child is hooked on soda or sports drinks or guzzles a gallon of apple juice a day, you’ll want to stay tuned for next week’s article on Drinks which includes:

  • My secret weapon for sugary and caffeinated drinks–and no, it’s not water! I wouldn’t string you along like that!
  • My favorite smoothie recipes

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