For the summer, we decided to move to my parents’ country-house. A bit later my little brother’s school year ended, and he came too to join our suburban lifestyle for the holidays. I know well what to cook for myselfand Eddie, we aren’t picky and try to eat healthy. But my brother is a teenager, and he wasn’t exactly inspired when he saw broccoli soup and mushroom spelt porridge. Seeing how he eats sugar flakes for breakfast, mac-n’-cheese for lunch and sausage rolls for dinner, all with a generous side of cookies, was unbearable. Not because I perceive everything mentioned as unhealthy, but because the outcomes of such diet were quick to come.
For some reason, we don’t take our diets seriously until something happens. Preconditions of sugar diabetes, minute joint problems, fatigue, stomach aches, irritability caused by lack of sugar — all these symptoms weren’t yet fully manifested as a definite disease, but were starting to speak for themselves nonetheless. During the time we have spent together, we have made some progress in cultivating healthy eating habits in my brother. And here is how we have done it.
1. THAT’S WHAT I LIKE
We asked him about his favourite foods.
-What are some of your favourite meals? -Ketchup macaroni. Milk & Cereal. Pizza. Cookies. Ice-cream.
-What are some of your favourite veggies? -Corn. Green pea. Cucumber. Pizza sauce.
-What are some of your favourite fruits and berries? -Banana. Apple. Pear. Kiwi. Strawberry. Raspberry.
-Anything else? -Juice (orange, cherry, carrot) and smoothies.
*Don’t let the effortlessness of the narrative misguide you, this information
wasn’t easy to obtain.
2. SEARCH FOR ALTERNATIVES
The next step was to work with our modest list. We started gradually incorporating replacements into his diet by substituting specified meals with their healthier counterparts. The most important thing here is to go easy. If you want your kid to live at peace with these changes, give him time to adjust. Let everything happen naturally, one thing after another.
The original and its equivalent:
Ketchup macaroni. Whole grain pasta/Buckwheat noodles + Vegetable & Lentil tomato sauce/Soy mince (for a bolognese twist)/Homemade zucchini pesto
Milk & Cereal. Whole grain, low-sugar flakes + plant-based milk (oat, almond, cashew, soy, rice)
Pizza. Whole grain wheat crust + tomato sauce + favourite veggies (corn and peas)
Cookies. Rice cakes/Low-sugar or naturally sweetened cookies (stevia, agave, maple syrup etc.)/Homemade popcorn/Dried-fruit grain bars (no added sugar)
Ice-cream. Home-made nice-cream and fruit ice.
Juice and smoothie. Freshly-squeezed juices. Sweet fruit and berry smoothies enriched with nuts, seeds and superfoods.
3. EVERYONE’S MEAL
We cooked and enjoyed the same foods together. Don’t serve whole grain pasta to your kid while munching on chips. If you want your child to develop healthy habits, you need to develop them first for yourself.
4. TAKING CARE OF THE BODY
While serving the modified meals, we were explaining to my brother why a whole grain is more nutritious than a processed grain, how calcium from almond milk helps skeletal growth, how fibre from fresh fruits and vegetables stimulates digestion and so on.
Everyone wants to feel good, and it’s a significant benefit that healthy diet has to offer, isn’t it? It is important to systematically remind your kid that taking care of the body is important. We are what we eat. When the body is
satiated with all the necessary macro- and micro-elements, then it has the tools for regeneration and self-healing. When these element are amiss, our systems start using their own resources, which leads to internal organs exhaustion and sickness as the result.
5. 90/10 PROPORTION
It is impossible to completely keep your child away from unhealthy foods, and you really don’t need to. Chips, cookies, ice-cream, cake, fries and other joys of modern man are everywhere around us. Don’t make it a
taboo, let your kid have an occasional birthday cake, a hot-day ice-cream, eat fries when going out with friends. If the vast majority, about 90%, of his diet consists of nourishing foods, fruits, vegetables, whole-grains,
legumes, nuts and seeds, then the leftover 10% of processed foods won’t be so demanding of his health.
Conscious eating is key to human health. Knowing what we are eating and why we need it can shield us from many diseases. And this knowledge, if acquired in youth, can become a substantial platform for a child’s health.