I don’t know about you but for me it is a STRUGGLE to get my kiddos to eat healthy food. Seriously, I’m pretty sure that Brother has a sugar problem. I don’t understand it. I very rarely have food with little to no nutritional value in my home. In fact, when my mother or sister come to visit they bring their own food because they don’t like my “healthy junk.” But it doesn’t matter, it still gets in here sometimes and it still creates temper tantrums and “bad choices” for snacks. Don’t get me wrong. I do not keep my kids from all the fun food. I’m not going to be the parent to say “no. They can not have any chocolate or candy around Valentine’s Day.” We will get ice cream. Sometimes, we will order a pizza. We will occasionally have potato chips. But every one of us, including the Hubs and I, get trapped into this quick and convenient and sugar filled routine. I’m diabetic. Almost everyone in my family is diabetic. Brother and Baby Sister have really high chances of being diabetic since it runs in my family and I was diabetic while pregnant with them. It is incredibly important to me that we make healthy choices when eating. To teach my children to make nutritious choices is not just a good idea but one that could potentially be life saving when they are older. But for my children, it wasn’t just about telling them they need to pick a healthy snack over chocolate. They had to understand WHY they needed to choose that orange over that cookie. So we had an eating healthy week that has become a lot of fun and has actually stuck with them for a little bit.
To be honest, I don’t have to worry about Big Sis too much. She makes pretty healthy choices already. She will decide that she doesn’t want any more junk food and pick something nutritious. She is constantly surprising servers at restaurants because she will pick broccoli over fries (no joke.) She will not drink a soda. She doesn’t like the carbonation. And she is constantly reminding me to watch my sugar intake (which isn’t always welcoming but the opposite would be worse.) So I didn’t put much work into her lessons. I really wanted to just remind her how fun it is to eat healthy and to remind her that in order to be healthy you do have to make sure you eat ENOUGH. It is just as unhealthy to eat very little as it is too eat only junk food and the last thing I want to do is create any kind of eating disorder.
So for Big Sister, really we just encouraged her to try all kinds of new foods or retry foods she didn’t like in the past. It was an adventure for her and she told me she really enjoyed it.
I also enrolled her in a seven week class on Nutrition and Healthy Eating from Outschool. She is currently taking it as I write this and she is learning a lot and having fun.
We got the idea from her teacher for her nutrition class to put a picture of a plate that is divided into different sections for each food group up in our kitchen to remind her to make sure to eat as many food groups as she can during each meal. She had to write down on the plate what she ate from each section and at the end of the day she looked at the plate to see what was missing. Usually, she was missing vegetables so we found some new vegetables for her to try that she might enjoy as a snack. It’s still a work in progress to find a vegetable she likes as a snack. But I’m sure it will happen.
As for Brother. I was really excited about this week because I really wanted him to start learning how to make healthy choices and I knew he wouldn’t do so unless he understood WHY he had to do it.
This was a fun and colorful book. Big Sis read it with us and it worked really well with letter recognition for Brother. The book introduces all kinds of fruit and vegetables from around the world and the book had a glossary at the end for sister to go through to learn interesting facts about the book. Brother and Sister learned about some fruits and vegetables they have never heard about and decided they wanted to try a bunch of them!
This was a very cute book about monsters that refuse to eat vegetables. Brother loved it and asked the Hubs and I to read it to him more than once. Spoiler alert: in the end it was about siblings that pretended to be monsters and imagined their healthy snacks to be monster food. It’s pretty cute.
Ok. I’m not going to sugar coat it. (see what I did there?-HA!) I was not a big fan of this book and would not recommend the book to anyone unless you are willing to have a conversation about body image as well. I was pretty surprised because how can you not like the Berenstain Bears!?! In the book, Mama Bear notices that Brother Bear and Sister Bear are getting “thick,” “plump,” “too big for their clothes,” etc. It wasn’t focusing on the fact that they were making poor nutritional choices but that they were looking bad. Even the family doctor agreed that the children were getting over weight! Sure, they learned a good lesson about why they needed to eat better, and yes it showed that once the Bears began to eat healthier it was easier for them to make healthy choices. And yeah…it looked fun as the family made the healthy journey together! BUT to me it sent the message “don’t eat this food because it will make you fat!” I DO NOT want my children to make food decisions because they are worried about how they LOOK! That’s just begging for poor self body image in the future. I want my children to make decisions based on what is good for their health and body. What is going on in the inside of their body instead of the outside.
We played Food Bingo. Any excuse for my kids to play bingo and they will take it. Big Sis got the vegetable card and brother got the fruit card. You can find several Bingo Cards on Teachers Pay Teachers.
We printed out this Healthy Eating Book from Liz’s Early Learning Spot and read and colored this book together. He really enjoyed this book and carried it around and asked me to read it to him often
I printed some clip art of different foods and we sorted them into the correct food group. I explained to Brother what the food groups were and how it was important that we tried to eat from every food group daily. He had already been exposed to the idea of food groups because he had been participating with his sister when she wrote down what she ate from each food group during the week so this just reinforced what he had learned.
We did this Healthy versus Unhealthy Sorting Activity from Teachers Pay Teachers. Any chance Brother gets to sort things, he will take.
We watched the Story Bots exercise Why Can’t I Eat Dessert All the Time? on Netflix. I feel like it explains perfectly why we can’t eat dessert all the time in a way that made sense to Big Sister and Brother. Our week almost centered around this episode because we kept referring back to it when talking about the foods we were eating. It begins with a celebrity cameo by Christina Applegate who happens to be a baker. But then the story bots follow the journey of a piece of broccoli (bear with me, it really is a good show) that is trying to find where he fits in the world. He goes through each food group and learned what that particular group does for our body and why we need to eat those nutrients before he finds that he belongs to the fruit and vegetable group. I haven’t found a better explanation that is also enjoyable for a child to watch.
Now for the fun stuff. Brother was really excited to make a trip to the grocery store to pick out all sorts of fruits and vegetables. We went while Big Sister was at her co-op and we literally filled our cart up with as many fruits and vegetables we could get.
Side note-I usually don’t take Baby Sis to the grocery store with me and she LOVED it. It was almost like we took her to Disney World. She was so excited to see all the colors and all the new things for her. It really was cute.
Any who-Brother picked TONS OF fruit and vegetables. Some old favorites and some new ones to try. The next day, Brother and Sister wanted to make some kind of edible craft with their food. We were also studying the letter S so Brother wanted to make a “fruit spider.” I pulled out all the food we bought and placed it on our table and just let them do their thing. Brother told me which fruits he wanted and I helped him set it up but then he built his spider the way he wanted. After that, he decided he wanted to take the butter knife and cute up strawberries, blueberries, and other vegetables on his own. He peeled and cut food and just played (Hello Motor Skills.) It was an unplanned lesson but one he had a lot of fun with. The entire time they were doing this, they were snacking on the food in front of them. Brother discovered he LOVED cherries. Big Sister discovered she loved blackberries. We all discovered that oranges are still Brother’s favorite and Baby Sister discovered she was not a fan of blueberries.
The next day, I laid out the food that was left and had Big Brother race to find the rainbow. Big Sister would call out the colors of the rainbow and he would find one food that was that color and try it. I tried to get him to take at least one bite of each food he picked but Brother wasn’t really into it that day. And that’s fine…I don’t want to force him. That makes learning and eating healthy…well less of an adventure and since he’s only three there is no need to force him to learn anything he is not wanting to. That would leave a bad taste in his mouth. (HA! Pun intended.)
Every day, I asked Brother which new vegetable he wanted to try. We had mushroom stir fry for a snack one day (a little weird for a midday snack but my kiddos loved the mushrooms.) and spinach chips the next.
Brother and Big Sister had so much fun with all the fruits and vegetables that I have decided to take out all the fresh foods from the refrigerator every day so it’s not “out of site, out of mind.” That way, they will grab a healthy snack as the walk past the kitchen and fill up with yummy nutritious food and we don’t have that “I’m bored… feed me with pointless food” moment.
Brother also wants to keep going to the store with me to pick out our fruits and vegetables for the week. We’ve decided to try to visit a farmer’s market on a regular basis and let them pick out a bunch of food as often as we can. I can’t wait to watch the excitement on Brother’s face again as we see all the adventurous foods that he will be able to try again.
We are far from perfect. The Hubs and I easily fall into the habit of making bad choices for food. I’m sure that although we are on a healthy kick at the moment, we will have another time in our lives where I am battling between my kids asking for all the junk food and keeping them healthy. But the future of their health (and my health) looms over me. Every day, that my blood sugar is higher than I’d like it to be, I am reminded that I have to do better for my children. I have to help them NOW so that they don’t have to worry about what diabetes is going to do to their body later. I have to help them WANT to make these healthy choices and be excited about it. We may have to repeat weeks like this again in the future and that’s fine because it’s fun! But I really hope I can make a long lasting impression for my children that eating healthy is an ADVENTURE!