When my son Blaise was in preschool His teacher pulled me aside for a chat. I thought to myself, “what did he do today?” Her meeting was not at all what I expected. She told me that after watching Blaise eat his salad every day for lunch she decided to change her eating habits too. She said, “I watch Blaise happily eat his greens while I eat my cheeseburger, I realized if he can do it then so can I. It was then I realized I was at least doing this one thing right, despite all the other mistakes I was making as parent. Insert giggle here.
When Blaise was born we didn’t know he had Prader Willi Syndrome. That diagnosis didn’t come for almost 3 years. What I did know is what my mom taught me. She said as soon as he starts eating solid food you give him veggies, if at first he doesn’t like them, keep giving them and he will eat them eventually. She was right, and he did. When my second son Maddock was born I followed on the same path. We never kept cookies or cake treats in the house, ok well sometimes, but we always kept fresh fruit and veggies.
Blaise’s diagnosis changed everything. I had to get very clear on anything and everything nutrition, his life depended on it. At the time of diagnosis Blaise was 34 inches tall and 41 lbs. He was classified as obese. It was such a hard time. The constant stares at the stores, the never-ending, “Oh he is going to be a line backer one day,” it was heartbreaking. With his condition he burns little to no calories so although he wasn’t overeating he was gaining rapid amounts of weight.
After his diagnosis I shifted his diet fast. He lost so much weight and we haven’t been back there since. PWS is very complicated and keeping our kids healthy can be nothing short of a monumental feat. We do it though. With the right nutrition our kids aren’t obese anymore, and if they are, then they are on their way to losing the weight. They are healthy on the inside and out. These are kids that could explain to you how the Krebs cycle works, I don’t even understand it, but they do. These kids know what sugar is and how their bodies can’t handle it. These are kids that know what it means to pay attention to what goes in your body. It is truly remarkable. Imagine climbing Mt. Everest without training for the journey, and getting to the top to put up your flag. You made it. That is what it’s like for a PWS family. None of us knew what to expect, or how to handle it but we grabbed our climbing poles and headed up the mountain. Thousands of us are now waiving our flags.
Blaise always ate healthy, but got healthier after his diagnosis. Blaise loves his veggies, but not because he has to eat them, he really loves veggies. So many of my friends ask me all the time how do I get both my kids to eat so many vegetables? I think everybody’s kids can love veggies. For some it might take a little longer to dive into a veggie loving world, and for others it will happen rather fast.
Here is what I know:
Start your kids young. I mean really young. When they start solid food give them greens right away. If they don’t like it don’t give up. Get creative. Bitter greens are much more palatable when you add some citrus. Blend fresh greens in with an organic pear or apple. (Most importantly, if you are just learning to like greens yourself be careful about the faces you make when feeding) Babies are very smart, if mommy makes a yucky face they will follow suit. 🙂 Have fun with this.
Once your kids get a little older practice adding veggies at every meal. Zucchini is great in scrambled eggs, spinach is super simple in a healthy breakfast sandwich, and why not mix in some fresh herbs too.
Salads are a great way to get kids into eating their veggies. My one caution is to never use iceberg lettuce. There is very little nutritious value here. Go for the green stuff. Think like Popeye.
“I’m strong to the finish, cause I eats me spinach”
Green leaf lettuce, Spinach, Mixed baby Greens, and when they get more adventurous add some baby kale and arugula. Then add in some good stuff that they like. You can add tomatoes, carrots, celery, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, good quality dried cranberries, chopped up walnuts or almonds, and if they like cheese put a bit in shredded (go for the good unprocessed cheese here). Now I know for some of you that you want to go crazy and drown this thing in dressing. Wait…..let’s slow down a minute. Put your thinking caps on here. There are a ton of ideas to dress a salad. I recommend trying to get your kids to go with Olive Oil and Vinegar (balsamic, red wine, apple cider). If they aren’t up for it, that’s ok. Try and make a dressing they like from scratch. Make a big batch of it and put it in a glass jar in the fridge for later use. Make a homemade Italian dressing (I suggest good quality olive oil not vegetable oil), make your own balsamic vinaigrette, or a lemon poppy-seed. Hummus is also a great way to dress a salad. You can mix the hummus in with the lettuce, mmm yummy. The internet is teeming with healthy recipes. Another trick, put the dressing(only need a small amount) in a container on the side. Let them put it on their salad, let them feel like they are making their own food.
If your kids aren’t salad eaters then go for some cooked veggies. There are a million and one ideas here. Start slow if your kids are anti veggie, don’t overwhelm them. Brocoli, green beans, and spinach are great starters. Here is where I get serious, insert pointing finger and stern face. Please don’t boil your veggies until they lose their beautiful color, unless your making a cabbage and plan on drinking the broth. One of my favorite tools in my kitchen is my nifty little electric steamer. I wash my veggies put in the steamer, set and done. What can you steam? Everything. brocoli, carrots, green beans, kale, collards, cabbage, zucchini, yellow squash, and so much more. I steam our veggies for the least amount of time possible. I like my veggies like brocoli to have some crunch. Snap…snap…snap… I like that sound.
So okay that is too boring for your kids. Well then get out your pan and saute. A quick saute of some zucchini with olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs is delicious. You can add a sprinkle of fresh parmesan on top when done. You can roast your veggies. Roasting brings out so many depths of flavor when cooking.
Make yourself some delicious homemade condiments and store them. Kids love to put sauce on stuff, a little goes a long way. You can keep things like tahini on hand, or homemade coconut sauces. You don’t need to mask the flavor but enhance it, and let the kids feel like they are a part of the decision-making.
Let the kids help you prep and cook the veggies. Kids want to eat what they cook, that is a fact. Get them in the kitchen with you. You will be amazed at how interested they will be in eating the finished product.
Here is my other favorite trick. Kids love things made into fun shapes. I invested about $25 in this little baby. It is so awesome and fun, the kids love to do it with me. We make pasta out of zucchini, me make curly fries out of sweet potatoes, you can go crazy with this thing. Go get yourself one. You will thank me later.
Kids love soup. It’s winter now and we need to break out our big pots and get cracking. You can steam some brocoli and then either with a hand immersion blender (I can’t live without mine) or a regular stand blender, puree the brocoli. Add the brocoli in a pot and add some chicken stock, salt, pepper and whatever fresh herbs your family likes. If this is bland for the kiddos, add a dash of coconut milk, or almond milk, or organic milk to make creamy. If your kiddos are meat eaters, then grab yourself some good organic sausage. Brown your sausage in a pan and then add into your soup. Yum!
Kids love juice. There are many reasonably priced juicers out there today. I bought a Jack LaLane Power Juicer at Walmart for $99 2 years ago. Vitamix’s are popular, but very pricey, and the Ninja blender. Get juicing! My kids love to drink green juice, and for my youngest a fresh carrot, red apple and ginger juice is yummy. For the more adventurous kiddos add an avocado in your juice, chia seeds, and some coconut oil (coconut oil helps stabilize the blood sugar and keeps you feeling full longer.) Here is my green juice recipe, it’s simple and my kids love it.
1 bunch of either kale/collard/spinach
1 small green apple
2 stalks of celery
half a small cucumber
1 small lemon peeled
(you can add more lettuce,fresh herbs, or a pear instead of an apple)
Here are 2 more things that I think are really important:
1. Your kids need to see YOU eat your veggies. If you don’t ever put a fresh piece of fruit or veg in your mouth, they probably won’t either. Kids naturally do what their parents do.
2. We have a rule in our house. You MUST at least try what is on the plate. You don’t have to like it, but you must try it. You will be shocked at how often they will try it and say, “Wow, this is really good.” YOU MUST TAKE A BITE!