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The #1 Way To Turn Kids Into Healthy Eaters

January 3, 2013

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I go to great lengths to get my 2 year old son to eat his veggies. I serve his favorite broccoli almost every day. I chop spinach and kale into teeny, tiny pieces and add it to scrambled eggs. I make special dips, hoping to woo him into a few carrot sticks. Like so many moms, in between diaper changes and bedtime stories I am a Houdini of nutrition. A stand up comedian of forkfuls. A clown. A choo choo train.

No wonder I’m so darn tired.

But the truth is, you can’t make your child eat anything they don’t want to. Physically forcing food down his or her throat is possible...as is threatening starvation...but neither is likely to result in a peaceful household or healthy attitude towards food and eating.

Luckily, it doesn’t matter.

Because the most important thing you can do for your kids’ health is not worry about whether or not those Brussels sprout were swallowed or hidden under the placemat. In fact, let's all calm down about it. Offer real food and keep the doughnuts out of sight, and all will be well. If he just wants to eat cheese? Ok, it’s organic. Just wants to eat beans? Whatever.

The most important thing you can do for them is to sit down and eat your own balanced meal.

Yes, that’s right. Go on. Make a decent plate for yourself and repeat after me:

I won’t eat leftovers from the highchair tray.

I won’t eat leftovers from the highchair tray.

I won’t eat leftovers from the highchair tray.

Good. Great. Now we’re talking.

Mom taking care of herself - what a concept!

The behavior we model day in and day out is the strongest indicator of what our children will learn. My son mimics putting on lip balm by touching a AA battery to his lips and reminds me that, yes, he’s been watching my every move since the day he was born. He’s sees a teacup and says “Mama!” He sees a bottle of soda and (sigh) says, “Dada!”

He also sees me shopping for fresh produce of every shape and color. He sees me peeling carrots and mincing parsley on the cutting board and doing wild karate chops with a cleaver to open a butternut squash. He sees the kale go in the oven and witnesses the crunch of a bite when it comes out as a chip. 

He gets curious.

He’ll try one, too.

And if not today, another day.

Moms, we tend to put a lot of extra effort into making sure our kids do everything “right.” I challenge you to take a step back and prioritize yourself for a change. Take care of you. Do what will make you healthy, strong and vibrant. And be an amazing example for the little ones watching you (not to mention everyone else).

Michelle Pfennighaus is mama, health coach and holistic business coach to busy women around the world. She suffered for years with IBS and anxiety, until finally healing herself through changes in diet and lifestyle. Her life’s reinvention has been documented in the movie “Lemonade” and she’s been featured on ABC, NBC and NPR with her inspiring story.