Have you ever noticed that kids get excited when you're excited? They often absorb the emotions that are in the room. When their brother or sister is upset, they feel upset - and when they are happy and excited - the other one is generally happy and excited also. This goes for the parents and adults in the children's lives too. Kids rely so much on their adult and sibling influences for their likes, dislikes, habits, and interests.
What I have noticed is that when kids give that scrunched up 'ew' looking face, it is often before they have tried something AND it is usually because of the way in which the food is being presented.
"Ok, Johnny, now you need to eat this spinach because you need to eat something green and it's good for you. I really need you to AT LEAST try it. Just give it a taste."
Seems harmless right?
Well, they are now looking at that spinach like it's different. Like it's not as tasty. Like it's a chore. Why not include them in the preparation so that they know all about all the ingredients that they are eating?
Bring up the nutritional facts on your iPad and let them read and learn about the different foods as your making them from the vegetables and herbs to the more desirable fruits and nut butters- allow them to become excited about healthy ingredients all on their own. Soon they will learn that spinach is a powerful antioxidant that includes vitamins C, E, A, manganese and minerals such as zinc and selenium. They'll learn that it also contains vitamin K, calcium and protein - all bone strengthening and muscle building properties. Ya'll remember 'Popeye the Sailor' right? The iconic energetic and muscular sailor dating back to the 1920s was often seen getting the benefits of spinach through his pipe and sometimes eating spinach from a can. While I wouldn't recommend either of those methods, the message was clear even then - eat your spinach to grow big a strong.
Why are we hiding the healthy ingredients? Real whole food IS the source of ingredients. Real whole food is what makes the meals that you and your family consumes. Giving children the opportunity to experience the texture, flavors and benefits of individual ingredients will instill a lasting appreciation for the food whether they acquire a taste for it or not.
Sure there are still going to be foods that they don't like as there are foods that adults aren't too fond of either (like I'm not fan of raw celery by itself... at all) but without a preconditioned judgement, they are free to make that determination after learning about and trying the food.
When we learn we generally grow an appreciation for it. Whatever it is. Judgement often comes from ignorance. The same applies to food.
Also know that you can pair healthy ingredients together strategically to make it even more desirable. Spinach and other tender greens go amazing with fruits such as strawberries and spinach or fruit salsas in boats of butter or romaine lettuce. And more dense options like celery and almond butter or dates and dark chocolate. Or simply blend into smoothies. The options are endless.
So, I spent some time at out my brother's house with his beautiful wife and three boys ages 4, 6 and 6 months old. While the 6-month-old didn't partake in the tasting festivities (although he was watching and smiling), the other two thoroughly enjoyed.
While I was there, there were smoothies with kale (YES!), spinach, avocado, and all sorts of fantastic fruits! There was also vegetable sautés, salads, and protein additions like sprouted seeds and nuts. One of my favorite nights was when they discovered their love of coconuts and coconut water.
This was an Organic Mature Brown Coconut.
To select the coconut, shake it and be sure that you can hear some water and that there is no mold or mildew by the hole/indents.
If you have drill handy - this is the easiest way to get into the coconut.
You'll drill into the indent that is darkest in color. In this case, it's the upper right spot.
You'll want to have a container ready to capture the fresh coconut water.
They were quite excited ;)
Once the water is drained, you can open the coconut using a very sharp knife, ax, or machete. You can also simply crack open the coconut using something like a hammer by first cracking by the first hole and then continue to crack all along the coconut until it cracks apart - there is a natural line that you will be able to see eventually and it will crack along it.
You can watch our intro here.
Yes, kids can LOVE coconut water AND they'll tell you about it! (Watch here) ;)
The coconut meat can be saved and shredded and used in all sorts of things, eaten on its own, strained into milk, or blended into coconut butter or oil.
The possibilities are vast in the world of fresh whole real foods - all found in nature.
So, next time you see a coconut at the store, go ahead and crack it on open with the kiddos and enjoy some of nature's most hydrating beverage.