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5 Things I Learned About Raising A Plant-Based Baby

Until you are a parent you can't imagine the sudden need to make everything perfect; unless you are excessive compulsive for other reasons. Prior to motherhood, my need for control and perfection was obvious to those who knew me, little did I know that life with baby would mean losing all sense of the control I thought I had. Sure, I tried reading every parenting article or book available, but I figured parenting is instinctual, right? How hard can this be? Well, have you ever tried to pose a baby for that perfect photo? Good luck! Whether they become tired, hungry, distracted or excited, you start a new understanding that life as a parent is all about going with the flow. Sitting down for dinner, while your daughter paints her arms, face, and table with whatever you just served her, is another reminder that things are even a little messier now. And when it comes to nutrition, if you ever have attempted to force your child to eat something, you'll quickly realize the more you want it to happen, the less likely it will. All I could end up doing was trying to direct my daughter’s food wants in a more positive direction. Children are learning and absorbing everything around them -- they don't yet have the brain development to evaluate what they are being fed -- that’s our job. We, as parents, need to find ways to make our children love healthy foods!

By starting a great relationship with nutrition right from the start, my daughter is learning the tools to maintain a positive relationship with food throughout her life. Once a child learns that they can feed themselves, they start to thrive on this new found independence, and similarly, this is a perfect time as parents to take advantage of this independence by guiding them in the right directions as we set them free to make healthy choices. Vegetables should be their first choice, not their last. Sound impossible? It's not, but it is a commitment that you need to be willing to take.

Here are a list of the top 5 things I learned as a new momma about raising a veggie loving baby:

1. DIP IT!

Kids love to dip. Present them with a plate full of veggies paired with a dip, and you’re sure to make an impact. Before children have mastered the use of their utensils, dipping builds on their hand-to-mouth coordination while supporting their need for independence. Even the simplest dip transforms any vegetable to a more favorable bite. Clearly the usual condiments of ketchup and mustard work, but there are other easy, healthy options available. Organic hummus is great! It can easily be made at home, and with so many different flavors you are sure to find a pleasing option. Another great alternative is Tzatziki. And lastly, my personal favorites come from the Sakara dressing lineup, which are packed full of healthy ingredients I know I can trust. I used Sakara dressings the first time I tried the “dip it” technique and it was a huge success -- and here I am writing about it! Truthfully, any of your favorite dips are a dip in the right direction. As last resort when no dip is available, a simple squeeze of lemon drizzled on vegetables just might be enough to do the trick.

2. DRINK IT!

What better to get our kids to eat their least favorite vegetables than by disguising them into a drink full of their favorite flavors?! By blending together an array of fruits and vegetables, you get a sweet, delicious smoothie to enjoy. There are hundreds of tasty fruit and veggie combinations you blend up. I prefer to have a special cup for my daughter that's just for her smoothies -- this adds excitement not only to the drink, but it's a special treat as well. Little do our babes know, the smoothie is full of nutrient dense vegetables! The added bonus is, as busy parents, we sometimes feel like we don't have the time to eat ourselves, so throw in a few extra handfuls of spinach and end with the perfect option for both babe and parent.

3. TIME IT!

Feed them when they are hungry, it's a simple as that. You can't expect a child to eat when they are not hungry, nor should we want them to. Just like us adults should listen to our bodies -- eat when hungry and stop when full -- so should our babes. It's imperative to teach our children this to prevent overeating in the future and unhealthy habits. When it comes to eating, whether snack time or mealtime, only feed them at the table. Letting a child eat while walking around or playing is not only a choking hazard, but teaches bad habits. We want our kids right from the start to sit and enjoy each meal, and make each bite count.

4. CHANGE IT!

Keep things interesting. Find new vegetables to incorporate into your children's diets and be persistent. We sometimes underestimate our children’s ability to try new foods. Help by involving your kids when choosing the vegetables they would be interested in trying. Then follow up by getting them involved in the cooking process. A child may be more accepting to a new food when it's something they participated in preparing. I hear all too often how "picky" someone's child is. The truth is, kids go through phases, growth spurts and changes and that’s okay! Anticipate periods of inconsistency and be prepared to try again.

5. EXAMPLE IT!

Be the example! Kids are always watching and listening, therefore nutrition should be a family effort. Take the time to prepare healthy meals for the entire family and plan ahead. If you take time each week to plan your meals, you give yourself time to get creative. Kids love to mimic, so take advantage of this and let them enjoy the foods you are also enjoying.

No one knows your child like you, and no one can tell you what works better than you. But when I find something that works, trust me, I use it. These are things that work for me, and I am no "expert", but I am The Expert when it comes to my daughter, just as you are with your children. And, probably, the most important of all: never forget that they just are kids, so sometimes, you have to roll with it (and that might mean accepting their desire to dip their bananas in ketchup). Who am I to judge? The best advice I was ever given was by my mom was, “Once you finally get it figured out, they will switch it up on you!” As parents, we do our best to keep up with our little ones, but things change every day. Change is not personal, it’s not business, it's life, and it happens with every kid and every parent. Change is a beautiful reminder that our kids are growing up and transforming into the future generation. Always stay positive, celebrate even the smallest triumphs, breathe through the hard days, and love this life!

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