It's crazy that something as important as a kid doesn't come with a user manual. Taking care of a human baby is hard. We start with such good intentions. Sometime between pureeing squash at midnight and brushing our teeth 3 times a day we find ourselves looking the other way when our 2 year old falls asleep in the car seat - with red licorice dribbling down her cheek. We might not get it right every time. but our children's health is still a top priority.
Here are 4 important categories of children's health.
1. GET ENOUGH SLEEP: Newborns sleep 15-16 hours a day They break that up into ridiculously short 1-2 hour cycles. but the truth is. kids need a lot of sleep. 1-2 years old need about 12-15 hours. 3-5 year olds need about 11-14 hours and 6-13 year olds need 9-11 hours. Sleep matters.
2. DON'T BE THE STINKY KID: Baby giraffes start walking. literally. 30 minutes after they're born. It takes 20 years for a human baby to learn to make their bed. We are a work in progress. Persistence and role modeling are key as we teach our children to brush and floss. scrub behind the ears. trim nails and wear clean clothes. Personal hygiene has social ramifications as well as physical. Clean habits will serve your child for life.
3. PLAY HARO: The Dest time to convince a person that they were born to be a totally dedicated physically active person for life is when they are 8 months old. Teach your child to find active fun and to do it. regularly
4. EAT HEALTHY FOODS: I am in awe of the parent whose child eats raw broccoli. Some parents manage a lifestyle of organic. perfectly balanced meals. For many. it is a daily battle ... eat this ONE blueberry and I will let you eat that hot dog and we'll count candy corn as a vegetable. You've gone from pureeing squash at midnig t to bargaining with candy corn.
Getting kids to eat healthy foods is challenging. Some experts recommend making eating more fun. we·ve seen beautiful culinary presentations of vegetables ... smiley faced sandwiches in a sea of spiralized zucchini. Don't feel bad if you are that parent that hands your child a whole cucumber to eat.
PRESENTING BROCCOLI IS A HAIR PIECE FOR A GARDEN BURGER. DOESN'T CHANGE THE FACT THAT BROCCOLI STILL TASTES HORRIBLE TO MOST 2 YEAR OLDS.
Here are some ideas.
First, remind yourself that a human baby is a work in progress. It's amazing how many children survive childhood without trying asparagus.
Second, we can't blame a 3 year old for preferring junk food. 3 year olds don't do the shopping or meal prep.
Third, a little parental trickery is 100% acceptable. We've had the best success with micro chopping of vegetables and sneaking them into foods kids like. Tiny pieces of zucchini in meatballs. marinara sauce or dipping sauce might do the trick.
Fourth, be ready to compromise. Ranch dip might not be a food of the Gods but let's hold judgment if it helps a preschooler down a serving of carrots.
Fifth, look for partners. Hummus. peanut butter and Tzatziki are good partners. Cauliflower is the master of disguise. All the recommendations for substituting cauliflower for mashed potatoes or pizza crust hold true. Choosing a vegetable based pasta is a good start and slipping a few zucchini spirals into the noodles can work too.
Sixth, vary it up. A child who refuses raw carrots may happily devour them when steamed.
Seventh, kids may suddenly refuse a healthy food that they have always eaten. Fickle goes both ways: rest that food and reintroduce it in a week or so and you may find that it is on the good list again.
Eighth, avoid threats. punishment and battles. A threatened child will associate negative experiences with eating and this will not get anyone toward the goal.
Parting Tip: The average 2-3 year old needs about 1 cup of vegetables a day You don't need to be an overachiever in this. Between 3 meals and 2-3 snacks a day this literally means a green bean or two here. a few bits of carrots there. a pouch with spinach and blueberries at lunch and a few bites of sweet potatoes at dinner. Focus on the healthy foods your child will eat and introduce one new option every week or so.