I’m often asked if our boys eat like we do. Short answer: yes and no. When we are home, we eat the same meals with small modifications, but it hasn’t always been this way.
Rewind to 2012, I was pregnant with our youngest son Jett, and Rush, our oldest, was in Kindergarten. What seemed like out of nowhere, Rush started constantly itching all over. He couldn’t run down the soccer field without stopping to scratch his arms and legs and his teacher reached out to let me know the itching was impacting him in school.
I took him to our pediatrician after trying everything I could think of – including changing laundry detergents and bath soaps – and her recommendation was to put him on steroids.
In my gut, I knew putting my 35 pound, 5 year old son on steroids was not the right call.
Mike and I had completed our first Whole 30 about a year before and decided we should try one with Rush. Let me tell you, this was no walk in the park. Five-year-old Rush was a mac and cheese – pizza – hot dog – eating kind of kid who wouldn’t dare come near a vegetable, so a nutritional reset rocked his little world!
We eased into it and once we got half way into the reset, the itching had not only lessened, it was completely gone. We knew something he was eating had caused the skin irritation.
During reintroduction we were able to pinpoint certain gluten-containing grains as the culprit. Had we followed the doctor’s recommendation to put him on steroids to mask the symptoms, and not addressed the root cause, he would still be struggling! Now, thanks to this nutritional reset, Rush clearly understands how the foods he eats impact how he feels.
Fast-forward to today: Do my kids eat the way we eat? Yes and no. They eat what I make with small modifications. For example, neither have a dairy intolerance, so they both drink grass-fed whole milk and eat cheese. (See the bottom of this post for sample meals.)
I’m not a food Nazi kind of parent, but my kids both know that the foods they eat will either make them more healthy or less healthy. Rush can read labels to determine added sugar content and knows the foods that will make him stronger, healthier and faster and the ones that will not. (Jett is still learning to read but knows the difference between healthy foods vs. unhealthy foods.) They eat what I make at home and (for the most part) are able to make good choices about food when they are out. Now, they are typical kids – so when offered a choice, they will absolutely go for the ice cream over an apple 😉
Rush knows if he goes to a birthday party and chooses to eat a commercially prepared cupcake, his skin will likely be impacted and he will deal with the consequences later. He is able to decide for himself when foods are worth it and when they aren’t. The fact that he is 11 years old and armed with that knowledge is powerful!
My best advice, when addressing your children’s nutrition, is to make changes, one at a time. A complete overhaul will likely end in a struggle of wills and potentially create an unhealthy relationship with food.
I highly recommend that as a parent, you model good nutrition for your children starting with breakfast. If you are having a cup of coffee and skipping food altogether in the mornings, I can promise they notice.
Protein and healthy fats for breakfast will set you and your child up for a successful day. Most mornings, my boys eat chicken nuggets, apples and a spoonful of peanut butter. Thinking out of the box and not limiting yourself or your kids to typical breakfast foods is a great place to start!
I have many friends who tell me they regularly prepare two different meals for dinner – one for their kids and one for themselves. Now, I know there are special situations with some children, however I encourage you to cook one meal for your family with small modifications. This not only saves time and money, but also teaches children to eat a variety of foods.
Here are a few dinners that are in my regular rotation with examples of how I slightly modify for my boys:
1. Roasted Salmon (The best recipe from the Pioneer Woman!) with Cauliflower Rice (Jasmine or white rice for the boys) + Roasted Broccoli topped with Tessemae’s Creamy Ranch.
2. Burgers on Sweet Potato Toast (on an Udi’s brand bun with cheddar cheese for the boys) + Sweet Potato Fries (made in the air fryer.
3. Sweet Potato Chili topped with avocado + scallions (topped with shredded cheese for the boys)
4. Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs (Meatballs with whole wheat pasta for the boys)
5. Shrimp Fried Cauliflower Rice (Shrimp, broccoli + white rice w/coconut aminos for boys)
6. Taco Bowls with taco seasoned ground beef (or any meat!) salsa, lettuce, guacamole and cauliflower rice (Siete brand tortillas with taco seasoned ground beef + shredded cheese for the boys)
Photo from Wholesomelicious
7. Sweet Potato Stuffed Sloppy Joes (Sloppy Joes on Udi’s gluten-free bread for the boys)
What foods or healthy eating strategies have you found to work with your children?