Imagine a dinner table of kids happily eating a plate full of vegetables. Sounds crazy right? Well for Callen Johnson, a mother of four, that’s a typical Wednesday night. How does she do it?
Here are Callen’s 5 tips for raising kids who actually like broccoli:
It’s important to shift your focus from protein and whole grains to fruits and vegetables. Don’t let the USDA food recommendations dictate your kid’s dinner plate. “Grains (which are always gluten free) and dairy products (which are always organic) are occasional treats in our home.”
Callen used to be a firm believer in the system, until she faced the struggle of raising her kids on a USDA recommended diet. The introduction to functional medicine and documentaries like “Fed Up” and “Hungry For Change”, completely changed her view on health. She shifted her vocal point from protein and grains to fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts and seeds. To her surprise, her kids have been generally healthier, gotten over sicknesses faster, and eat pretty much anything (yes, including broccoli).
“Desserts” and smoothies are a great way to sneak veggies into the kids diet. Check out Callen’s go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe or these decadent sweet potato brownies. Get creative with your smoothies! First starting out a general rule of thumb is, combine 50% dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, etc.) with 30% fruit and 20% healthy fats (chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, coconut oil, avocado, etc.) Also, adding a high quality vegan protein powder is a great way to enhance the flavor and get a filling nutritional boost!
When kids eat sugar, they crave sugar. The second it enters their body, their blood sugar levels spike and dopamine (a pleasure signal) releases in their brain. Shortly after their blood sugar rises, it drops rapidly. In return they crave the lost sugar “high”, which creates an addictive pattern.
Kids and adults alike are programmed for survival and sugar gives our bodies a sense of security. This dates back to our primal ancestors who regularly encountered feast and famine scenarios. Foods that pack on pounds on our body send more dopamine to the brain because extra weight helps us survive during famine. These days, we don’t experience famine how we used to, so this reward system doesn’t serve us the same way.
The refined sugar in 80% today’s food products, is much sweeter and concentrated than what can be found in nature. When our body is exposed to this concentrated, hyper sweet energy source, our brain is flooded with dopamine, causing an overstimulation of the reward system.
It’s not your child’s fault they crave sugar. They’re hardwired to eat foods that give them satisfaction and our body’s initial response to a sugar-filled Oreo is pure fulfillment.
Is your kid already hooked on sugar? We have good news; you can wean them off sugar and kick their cravings with healthy fats and nutrient rich “desserts”. Healthy fats (coconut oil, avocados, nut butters, fish, etc.) also send signals of security to the brain, WITHOUT spiking blood sugar levels. They help reduce cravings by keeping us fuller, longer; as well as regulate energy and mood. Swapping fat for sugar is the best way to turn off sugar-crash-tantrums and give your kiddo a good source of fuel.
But don’t freak out! Eliminating sugar from your child’s diet doesn’t mean they’re never eating another cookie. It just means you have to make healthy desserts, like Paleo Almond Chocolate Chip Protein Balls or Better Than Nutella Protein Bites. Experimenting with the sweetness found in nature is a fun way to teach your kids that healthy doesn’t just mean broccoli!
Help kids understand the true purpose of food- nourishment. American society and big marketing dollars have done a tremendous job of turning food into a commodity. When we achieve something, we celebrate with food; when we turn another year older, we eat cake; when we’re sad, we get ice cream. At a young age, food shifts from nourishment to a void-filler.
Instead of celebrating every success with food, respond to your child’s accomplishments with genuine excitement or extra quality time. Even taking them out to enjoy a healthy meal for dinner (keeping the emphasis on positive conversation) is a good way to reinforce their noble behavior. Kids want to be praised, and words of affirmation will make a much greater impact than any piece of cake. Every celebration doesn’t need to involve food.
A high-quality whole foods supplement makes a huge difference in kids’ immune systems. Schools and daycares are swarming with germs. And a strong immune system is the armor that will fight off the unfriendly bacteria they’re exposed to on a daily basis.
Whole food supplementation is fresh fruits and vegetables juiced and dehydrated into powder. It’s the easiest way to build up their immune system and fill the gaps in an imperfect diet.
Kid’s small appetites and today’s fast-paced world make getting essential vitamins, minerals and micronutrients in their everyday diet a difficult task. Pro Alpha Greens makes it easy. One scoop provides 50 superfoods, 20 servings of fruits and vegetables, 30 billion probiotics, 700mg of digestive enzymes and antioxidants all disguised in a sweet mixed berry flavored drink. It’s an easy way to ensure your child’s body is healthy, fully functional and developing properly.
Since Callen’s family started Pro Alpha Greens, they haven’t had any sick visits (that’s 3 years without any for 4 kids) no medications, her son no longer has an exercise induced cough, her daughter doesn’t suffer from seasonal allergies and the entire family stays regular.
Getting active doesn’t have to be organized sports. If it’s nice outside, go outside. Kids need activity to keep their mind focused and mood leveled out.
Fresh air and sunshine go a long way in supporting overall health. Sun exposure helps their body convert vitamin D to a bioavailable form, which is known to improve mood, energy levels and fight depression.
Staying active with the entire family is something Callen’s kids love to do. One of their favorite games is “Workout Deck”. Simply find a deck of cards and assign an activity to each card. Each player draws a card and performs whatever activity is associated with that card. For example you could assign 10 burpees to a king, so every time someone draws a king they have to do 10 burpees. Everyone completes his or her task at the same time and whoever finishes first, gets a point. Once everyone has finished his or her task, place the cards into a separate pile. Once all the cards have been drawn, the game is over and the person who accumulated the most points wins (can also be played without a point system).
Creating healthy habits can be fun for the entire family. Follow these 5 tips and your kids will be voluntarily scarfing down broccoli before you know it ;). For more delicious recipes and health tips, follow us on Facebook, Instagram or subscribe to our newsletter.