Helping Kids Appreciate Veggies: Whole30 With Kids
"Mom, I want more bread!" This was the refrain of my toddler today at lunch. He said this at least 8 or 9 times in the 30 minutes we sat together at the kitchen table. Clearly, the carrots, cucumbers, and chicken on his plate just weren't cutting it. He wanted bread with butter, stat. "Another bite of cucumber, and you can have more bread," I said at least a dozen times. Then he would eat a teeny-tiny piece of cucumber for another 1/4 slice of bread.
Why do we moms play this game? Because fruits and veggies are important, right? The problem is that I started to see that this same mentality was still present in my older kids. They were eating the veggies, just to get ice cream. There's nothing wrong with some ice cream, but how much better to actually enjoy the veggies because you love giving your body good, clean, healthy fuel? Seems like a much better set up for a lifetime of healthy eating, doesn't it?
Since Whole30 is all about healthy habits and lifestyle changes, we decided to put the whole family on the plan together, except the toddler and infant. My 8-month old loves Whole30, because while we are on the plan, there is virtually nothing on my plate she can't eat. We were hoping to see a shift in attitudes toward food (for all of us) as well as the opportunity to see how behaviors might be affected by the things we were eating.
Here's a bit about what we learned doing Whole30 with kids.
- We (the parents) started a week before the kids. If this is your first Whole30, I highly recommend this. You need to get the lay of the land, so to speak, so you know what to expect. The first 7-10 days of Whole30 can be rough. If you are experiencing sugar withdrawl yourself, it can be difficult to be patient with a kid who is experiencing their own withdrawl.
- Pay close attention to what your kids are eating. Kids NEED to have sufficient calories, fats, and protein. The last thing you want to do on Whole30 is to deprive their bodies of things they need for growth and development. If you notice that they are losing weight, it's probably a good time to stop (if your child has specific dietary needs, check with your pediatrician before starting them on Whole30).
- Don't limit portions on Whole30. Everything they will be eating is healthy. Let them eat. :) They will probably be starving all the time for a while. My kids ate a TON on Whole30.
- Encourage them daily. Remind them why you're doing Whole30. Tell them when you see positive changes in yourself, or in them. Kids will generally be more cooperative and participate more willingly if they understand the WHY.
- Give them time. They may balk for a while at not having any of their favorites. On the Whole30 website, they say that the amount of suck you experience at the beginning of Whole30 is usually directly proportionate to the amount of junk you ate before Whole30. If you have a kid that refuses to eat anything but chicken nuggets and mac & cheese, this new way of eating will be tough. But hang in there, it so worth it.
Specific How-To's and Recipes For Whole30 With Kids
- Make lots of snacks. Have them ready, all the time. Pack snacks for the car, for the stroller, for the bathroom. Ok, I'm kidding on that last one. But my kids seriously needed snacks all the time. Some of their favorite snacks were fruit, hard boiled eggs, cucumber slices, roast beef slices (sugar free), almonds, raisins, etc. For the car, I made small bags of almonds and raisins, bought small cups of mandarin oranges packed in 100% juice, and got some dried fruit. Water bottles are important and should go everywhere wiht you!
- Incorporate versions of their favorites as much as possible. Make zucchini noodles for the pasta lover, roast potatoes for the french fry lover, and make frozen coconut slushie for ice cream lovers. Whole30 definitely advocates NOT recreating comfort food for adults (it's all about breaking bad habits). But, for kids, it's a little different. It's ok to be a little more generous with comfort foods and smooth the path for them a little.
I've already listed some recipes from our Whole30 that the whole family liked, but here are some additional ideas that really appealed to my kids.
- Tuna salad in a lettuce leaf, with cherry tomatoes.
- Tacos in a lettuce leaf, with homemade ranch made from homemade mayo.
- Grilled burgers with homemade ranch (no bun) and roasted potatoes.
- Quiche of various types (I used coconut milk and whatever veggies I had on hand).
- Cucumber "nachos." I laid cucumber slices on a plate and topped them with taco meat, olives, tomatoes, shredded lettuce and homemade ranch, then let them eat with their fingers.
While You're On Whole30 with Kids...
While your kids are on Whole30, I encourage you to do lots of observing. Are they calmer then usual? More focused? Sleeping better? If they had specific complaints before their diets changed (like frequent stomachaches), are they still complaining of those things? When you reintroduce foods, like grains or diary, do they have any adverse reactions? With some observation and detective work, you can get the most out of Whole30 and be well on your way to healthier, happier kids.
If you are thinking about doing Whole30 with kids and have questions or comments, please leave them below! I'd love to hear your thoughts! If you missed the earlier parts of this series, you can check them out here.