by Erin Giberson | December 13, 2018Before having my kids, I appreciated girl-talk with friends. We’d meet for coffee or for drinks. We’d catch up and laugh. We’d dress up.
This time, I feel the need for a “fireside chat” with other Moms (even if remotely, while I curl up in the fireplace warmth as it’s still chilly in New Jersey), about a burning question I’ve been bouncing around in my head: what healthy foods can we give to kids for healthy and holistic energy, and how do we fuel ourselves in a way that’s healthy, holistic and sustaining throughout the day as well? (We’ll get to us, too!)
I was thrilled to be able to get ahold of a like-minded busy woman who also cherishes being a mom - the lovely Katie, joining by the virtual fire from the deep cold of Minneapolis. Katie works in product design and development and is the voice behind the mom-centric blog Whole Lovely Life. She’s also mom a five year old.
Erin: Hi Katie, thanks for joining! As we both have young kids (my three are 9, 7, and 3 years old), I imagine we’re in similar positions with managing schedules and seeking kid-friendly nourishing foods.
Katie: Hi Erin, I am so excited to be here. Yes! Focusing on healthy kid-friendly food options is a priority in our home but it can be difficult at times with our busy schedules. I make cooking a priority most of the week but we do typically let loose and enjoy at least one meal out a week.
Erin: Eating out definitely affords a pleasant break from busy schedules. Especially with school and all the activities that add up… With mine, even though I’ve taken the same approach with them all, my oldest will eat anything and my middle child eats decently, but my youngest survives on apples and cheerios. So, I’m on the search for snacks, nutrient and probiotics rich, that I can send to school or have them eat on-the-go (or feel better about when my 3 old seems to want to snack but not eat real meals). What are your thoughts on healthy snacks?
Katie: Lucky for me my son has always been a very adventurous eater. He will try anything at least once. This has made my job pretty easy because typically if he tries it he will like it but when he does not I don’t make a huge deal about it. I want him to want to learn to make his own healthy food choices vs. me pushing him to eat what I think he should eat. This is where you need to make food fun and throw in a little education about why choosing a healthy food is the way to go. I think one of the greatest things we can do as parents is to take the time to teach our children about food and why certain food are better choices than others. We don’t want to call a particular food good or bad as that can cause them to develop certain associations with food.. But, we want to say things like. That banana is going to give you so much more energy than that yogurt and you need as much energy as you can get etc. In addition to the education factor its also important to make food fun so getting my son involved in the kitchen is so important. Even though cooking with your kids can slow things down when you let them help in prepping the food they will be so much more excited about eating it. You can also take your time together to talk about the food and what makes it so amazing for your body. We have 3 favorite go to snacks in our house that are easy to make together and can be modified to keep things exciting:
Chia Pudding: Every week we make a batch of basic vanilla or chocolate chia pudding. We use it for a fast breakfast, dessert or quick snack. It also travels well. My son loves to top it with things like fresh berries, coconut flakes, seeds and nuts.
(Click on "Chia Pudding" for Katie's awesome "Oh So Simple Chia Seed Pudding" recipe, with all the yummy toppings variations, and be sure to click on "Smoothies or Popsicles" and "Dehydrator Veggie Chips" to make those as well!)
Smoothies or Popsicles: My son loves smoothies and gets excited about picking the ingredients. Smoothies are a great way to sneak lots of veggies into your kids diets. If your kids have an aversion to the green color that happens when you add spinach and kale to a smoothie use things like steamed and frozen cauliflower, zucchini and orange or purple sweet potato. And, you may not think to add healthy fat but but things like coconut oil, avocado, raw nuts and hemp seeds will not only help to keep them full but will also give their brains what they need to function optimally. In addition kids need more protein than adults so another add in that we love in our house is either collagen peptides or bone broth protein. Both are tasteless and bang a nutrient dense punch! In the summer we love making popsicles which are basically a smoothie frozen in a popsicle mold.
Dehydrator Veggie Chips: My son’s favorite are kale chips but you can pretty much chop any veggie, toss in a little avocado oil, sprinkle with salt and seasonings and place in a dehydrator for a few hours. They are store and travel well and are perfect for dipping in hummus or guacamole. If you don’t have a dehydrator you can make them in your oven at a low temperature.
Erin: I love those ideas! And I love the focus on foods that are naturally filling and energizing. Most processed foods that are marketed as convenient snacks for kids are just filler, and then kids can eat a lot, yet still feel unsatisfied. I’m excited to try the pudding, smoothies, popsicles, and veggie chips with my family! Right now I’m still in school-mode with the kids, and I’m always looking for healthy options to send with them. The school’s policy here is a “no-mess,” “healthy,” and hypoallergenic snack (I often send apple slices). I often plan to make lunches the evening before, but usually I end up doing it in the morning. And then kids need a snack when they get home…. How do you organize the day to make it easier to eat well?
Katie: My son will be starting kindergarten in September but I have been taking his food to his full time daycare since he started there 5 years ago. I definitely think planning and prepping is key not only to keep you sane but to avoid rushing around in the morning to pack lunches. We typically go to the grocery store on Saturday or Sunday and it’s a family event. I only have one kiddo though so with three it may be a bit crazy but you could let each one of your kids take turns shopping with you. Again, I think getting them involved and helping them to feel empowered makes all the difference. If they were involved in selecting the food for their lunches they are much more likely to eat it. For prepping I think the more you can do ahead of time the better. Chop and pre-pack things like fruit and veggies or cook and freeze things in bulk so they are ready to quickly grab. I also think a fun presentation is important. Instead of putting everything in baggies consider getting a fun bento box or something to present their lunches in a fun way.
Erin: Great points, and I like that the Bento boxes are reusable. Plus I imagine that packaging is right up your alley, as a designer. It makes me think of how my mom wrapped presents when I was younger. Even for simple gifts, my mom always took care to tie and curl ribbon, and you could feel that effort and love when you received it. I think most of us think about presenting food that we sit down to eat, but intentionally packaging the sustaining food we take with us is a beautiful reminder to pause and enjoy the experience of eating. That’s another part of our contemporary food scene - the speed and, honestly, mindlessness of being too busy to stop and instead being rushed and eating on-the-go. Plus, of course, refined sugars are present in so much more foods than many realize; how does that affect kids?
Katie: Yes, sugar is in everything! Food manufacturers and marketers definitely know how to get kids hooked at an early age. This is why cooking at home is so important. When you cook at home you have full control over every ingredient that is added to your food and when you need sweetener you can use ingredients like organic maple syrup, organic dates and raw honey. These are still sugars but they are whole foods vs. processed and refined sweeteners. I think sugar is only part of the problem. If your kids are snacking on packaged snack items like granola bars, fruit snacks, cereal, flavored yogurts and goldfish crackers they are getting more than just sugar. If these packaged snacks are not organic you are more than likely exposing your child to the chemical glyphospate which is a herbicide. Residue of this chemical has been found in popular brands packaged products. This chemical has been found to cause many health conditions but in children particularly it has been shown to cause ADHD or make it worse as well as affect the balance of gut bacteria.
Erin: That’s absolutely terrifying! And it’s worse because I think a lot of people believe they are choosing the better options - like granola bars, yogurts, goldfish crackers. I know I initially did. I remember talking with a pediatric dentist who told me about how terrible the “healthy” fruit snacks are for kids’ teeth, and thinking, wow, those are entirely marketed as a good snack option. Yet, once you realize, you see how much is actually loaded with sugar and worse, as you mentioned with the chemical preservatives and inclusions. So I think a lot goes back to what you said about making our kids a part of the process, teaching them, showing them the pleasure of eating in a way that benefits our bodies. It’s what we model ourselves, right? I’m wondering, how are we fueling and energizing ourselves during the day? And does the whole family have to be on board to help our kids sustain a healthy lifestyle?
Katie: Yes! This could not be more important. Our kids are like little sponges. They are soaking up everything around them and retaining what they see and hear. I am blown away sometimes by the things my son observes or remembers. As parents we need to set the example for our kids. They will model what we do. This includes not only setting the example by making healthy food choices ourselves but also be thoughtful about how we talk about food. We don’t ever want to say a certain food is bad, or will make us fat etc. Always focus on why the food is healthy, what the benefit to eating it will be. I think if there is a way to get the entire family on board and involved it will make all the difference. This goes for getting your spouse and older kids on board to help in creating an encouraging environment. Also, kids are smart! If they see you eating something that they are not allowed to have they are going to ask you about it.
Erin: That's very true. And it brings up an important point about us. While our kids need good examples, we also need quality nourishment. Remembering our own self-care might initially feel selfish yet it's not: keeping up our own health and well-being is imperative to having anything to give to others. I like the metaphor of putting the air mask on yourself first and then on those around you: we can take care of others only if we first take care of ourselves. So, how you do nourish yourself throughout the day and stay energized?
Katie: As moms we have so many thing we are doing and it can be super easy to put ourselves last. Our kids and families are our world! What I have found is the morning sets my day. If I have a bad morning my day typically is not the best but if I have an amazing morning it's almost a guarantee that my day will be awesome! I get up early and rarely hit the snooze button (going to bed early and at the same time each night is key). Having time in the morning before my son gets up allows me to accomplish a few things on my to do list, workout, and practice gratitude. I don’t like feeling rushed and I want to make sure the morning is as calm as it can be for my son. I also start my day with a healthy breakfast. Typically either a green smoothie or green bone broth and I always take my supplements. I don’t take a ton of vitamins and supplements but one I do take is sho balance. I love this probiotic because it not only helps with regularity but contains of number of other amazing things such as spirulina, flaxseed and olive oil. If I get the rest I need from the night before and eat nutrient dense meals throughout the day I typically stay energized but when I am feeling a bit of a slump I love using sho energy which contains matcha and b vitamins. I go to bed pretty early and have found it is perfect for giving me a boost of energy in the afternoon without affecting my sleep. And, if it was not for sho’s innovative bottle tracker, and my son reminding me to not only get him his vitamins but to take my own, there are days I would probably forget!
Erin: Reminders always help! I'm finally getting to a period of having everyone sleeping, but feeling good is what motivates me to take vitamins and sho supplements, too. After having my second child, I really was so sleep-deprived that I stopped being active. But wanting to play and keep up with my kids encouraged me to explore better nutrition so that I could do those things and be healthier myself.
Taking care of ourselves really is the first step to passing on good habits to our kids.