Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Building the Foundation for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating

This post may contain affiliate links.
Guest blogger, Maryea, from Happy Healthy Mama, shares ideas for getting our children eating healthy from the beginning. For more from Maryea, visit her blog at


As parents, we have so many responsibilities in raising our children.  The parenting decisions we make have consequences.  You are reading this blog, so I know you don’t take your child-rearing responsibilities lightly.  One important area of parenting even the most conscientious parents overlook is the importance of building healthy eating habits.
Did you know that studies have shown that adoptive children are more likely to have the same diseases as their adoptive parents than their biological parents?  How can that be?  This is true because the diet and lifestyle habits we pass on to our children have a stronger impact than even the genes we pass on.  The healthy eating habits you instill in your children can lead to a lifetime of good health. 

The food we eat is what nourishes our body, keeps us well, and in our children, spurs their healthy development.  Here are some steps you can take to build the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating:

1.   Start Early. You want to expose your baby to a variety of healthy foods from the moment they start solids.  You are helping form their tastes and preferences.  Two of my toddler’s favorite foods are avocado and salmon and I know it is because of early exposure.  Avocado was one of her first solid foods at six months and I introduced her to salmon as one of her early finger foods around ten months. 

2.  Make Healthy Foods Taste Good.  Buying vegetables fresh, in season is helpful.  Soggy vegetables from a can are nearly inedible, in my opinion, so how can anyone expect them to be a baby’s favorite food?  Prepare your vegetables with flavor; don’t be afraid to use spices or other flavor enhancers. (Although you want to limit salt for babies under 1)

3.  Offer a Wide Variety of Healthy Foods.  Even if you discover your toddler loves broccoli, you still shouldn’t offer it at every meal in leu of other vegetables.  You want to offer a wide variety of healthy foods.  When your baby or toddler doesn’t seem to like something, keep offering.  Sometimes it takes up to ten times of offering the same food before it is accepted.  Taste buds of little ones are always evolving, so you never know when a previously rejected food could become a favorite. 

4.  Keep Meal Time Pleasant.    Your little one is likely to develop a strong dislike of all foods, not just healthy foods, if meal time is always a battle.  Don’t stress too much about how much your child is or is not eating; continue to offer a variety of healthy food choices and be confident that your little one will eat as much as he needs. 

5.   Be a good role model.  It’s important that your children see you eating healthy foods.  They need to be exposed to parents who are enjoying wholesome foods, not constantly indulging in overly processed, sugary, or nutrient void foods. 

6.  If it isn’t there, they can’t eat it.  I am always amazed when parents complain, “All my son wants to eat is chips and candy!” Those foods can’t be consumed if they aren’t in your house.  Stop buying junk food and your kids won’t be able to eat it. 
Helping your child become a healthy eater may seem overwhelming, especially if you have to work on your own eating habits, as well.  Don’t try to tackle it all at once.  Work in steps, and eventually you will get to the point where healthy eating is a natural part of you and your family’s life. 

Here’s a recipe to help you get started.  Even the most vegetable-resistant little one will love these cauliflower cheese nuggets.  My little one took one bite and declared, “It’s delicious, Mommy!”  Gotta love a reaction like that! 

Cauliflower Cheese Nuggets
2 cups cauliflower florets, chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten (substitute 2 egg yolks if you haven’t introduced egg whites yet)
1/4 teaspoon salt (omit for babies under 1)
1/8 cup ground flaxseed meal
1/8 cup wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil a baking sheet. 
Steam the cauliflower florets until soft.  (Steaming vegetables retains more nutrients than other methods such as boiling)

I use a simple steaming basket:

Once the cauliflower is soft, process it in a food processor just a little, allowing it to still  be a bit chunky.

You could also just chop it really well by hand.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cauliflower, cheese, egg, and salt.  The mixture will seem very wet. 

In a separate bowl, mix together the flax seed meal, wheat germ, and garlic powder.  (If you don’t have these ingredients on hand, you can also use whole grain bread crumbs)

Pick up a small amount of the cauliflower mixture in your hand and toss it from hand to hand until you form a small ball. (Remember, it’s going to seem really wet.  Don’t fret; it’s supposed to be.) Roll the ball in the flax seed/wheat germ mixture until it is completely covered.  Place it on your oiled baking sheet and press it down to form a nugget shape.  Continue with the rest of the mixture. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, flipping the nuggets over with a spatula half way through the baking time.  Makes 17 nuggets. 


These were gobbled up by my toddler, but my husband and I loved them, too.  These are great for the whole family!


Brandon & Catherine said...

These are great tips! An interesting note... I have heard that what and how the DAD eats is even more influential that what and how the MOM eats. Not sure if there are any studies to back that up, but my little one certainly watches EVERYTHING Daddy does. So if Dad is a picky eater, he might need to commit to being a little more brave with his food choices, or at least less vocal about foods (and textures) he doesn't prefer. Same should actually go towards both parents.

and then there were three... said...

This isn't relevant to this post, but I was wondering if you could do a post about what your day looks like as far as maintaining the schedules of three little ones and getting anything else accomplished. I recently had my second and can't seem to figure out how to keep two schedules simultaneously let alone get anything else done. Thanks.

Kristin said...

Great post! It's so true that little ones are influenced by what their parents are eating. My 14 month old would rather eat something that comes off my plate than what is on his high chair tray. Love the cauliflower recipe - can't wait to try it. Did you mention what the dipping sauce was?

Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama} said...

Hi Kristin-the dipping sauce is plain yogurt+tahini+dijon mustard. Meghan loves any kind of dipping sauce with tahini (ground sesame paste). You could do any sort of dipping sauce if your little one likes to dip. -Maryea (Happy Healthy Mama)

Kristy Powers said...

What a great recipe! With your tips, it seems so doable and yummy. I'm going to try it.

and then there were three..., there is an awesome post that Valerie recently updated about getting things done with three. Let me see if I can link it here. Well, this is not the recent updated one, but it mostly the same anyway and it's wonderful:

pwebbie said...

My 16 mo doesn't like whole veggies but loves the purees, so I keep giving them to her, while also offering her whole veggies. We eat veggies with every meal, and I've offered them to her ever since about 10 mo. She'll eat beans, meat, and some fruits, but not the veggies. I'm going to try this cauliflower recipe and maybe some casseroles.

Jennrob said...

I am not creative in the kitchen, AT ALL. Is there a good cookbook/website that you recommend? That recipe looks great! I'll try it.

Plowmanators said...

Catherine, that is interesting. My son seems to watch us both equally. Kaitlyn watches me FAR more than anyone. McKenna watches my husband FAR more than anyone. I would be interested to know statistics on that.

Plowmanators said...

And Then There Were Three, I hope you saw the post from Kristy that shared a link. It is specifically about three children. Here is the updated link:

Plowmanators said...

Jenrob, check out Maryea's website. See also the So Easy Toddler Cookbook review I did--it is a great book with simple instructions.


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