It can be daunting to create meals that are filled with real food for kids...especially if you have picky eaters. However, I'm here to tell you that it is totally do-able. And yes, your kids will eat and enjoy them!
This is our 8th installment of a series all about low carb kids. In this post, you'll learn the 10 top tips to transitioning kids onto a real food plan.
Real Food for Kids: 10 Steps to Take
These are my favourite 10 tricks and tips on how to help your child eat real food, cut back on the sugar and carbs and eat healthy food. I'll explain each in more detail below.
- Start slowly
- Ditching the bread
- Healthy school lunches
- Getting kids involved
- Drinking water
- Slow cooker help
- Working with picky eaters
- Healthy oils
See how to remove processed food from their diet, ditch the bread and soda, cut out deep-fried food, and make real food lunch boxes. Follow my action plan at the end of the post.
You can also grab a FREE copy of my book for you "How to Reduce Sugar from Your Child's Diet" PLUS 50 easy healthy snack ideas.
Following on from my previous guest post for Dr. Andrea Eenfeldt on his Diet Doctor website, I have been inundated with parents wanting to know exactly how to help your child embrace real food for kids. This post explains it all!
How To Help Your Child Eat Real Food
We all want our children to eat real food and healthy options, but how do we actually go about it?
How do we remove the processed food, sugars and inflammatory oils without having a family mutiny?
Below are my 10 top tips to help transition your children, and how to help your child eat real food for life. My emphasis is eating tasty nutrient-dense, whole foods and lowering their sugar and carb intake, especially from processed and junk food.
1: Start Slowly
I cannot emphasise this enough. Your household will not be a happy one if you clear out the cupboards overnight and suddenly change everything they have sadly come to love. Simply start one meal at a time.
There will be setbacks along the way, but this will be a long journey and it is best to have everyone on board.
If things get tough emotionally, remember - your children are lucky. They will grow up knowing the benefits of eating low carb real food and nutritional knowledge that not many adults have. You are giving them a leg up on their health journey!
Start with their breakfasts. Explain how cereals are more akin to desserts so you are going to slowly remove them from the house.
Begin with something to replace the cereals you know they will love. It could be scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon, and eggs, last night’s leftovers, sausages, a low carb smoothie or you can start to make some grain-free granola or low-carb waffles.
Don’t go too crazy at the start making special meals, this new way of eating has to be sustainable and if you think you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of making waffles each morning, you’ll resent it and give up.
Be easy on yourself and your children. As each box of cereal leaves the house, don’t make a fuss, just don’t replace it.
2: Leftovers Are King
You will quickly learn to make double or triple everything. It really doesn’t take much more time and effort but suddenly you will be organised for the days ahead. Think of leftovers in a different light, why have a sugary cereal when you can have a meal in the morning?
Why have a sandwich when you can have last night’s meal re-heated or cold roast meat to top off a beautiful salad? Leftovers can be frozen as individual portions for that emergency meal where you may have once relied on a takeaway.
When cooking sausages, chicken drumsticks, meatballs, roast vegetables, quiche, or any other real food for kids, cook double and you’ll already be a step ahead with keeping school lunches organized for the next few days.
3: Ditch The Bread
This doesn’t have to be tricky. Set yourself the goal that each week you will create a bread-free lunchbox twice a week. If your child is really resistant, try even cutting back to thin bread or thin wraps.
Eventually, bread will make less of an appearance in their lunch boxes until you get to the point where bread is no longer in the house, or it makes a very rare appearance. Some great healthy low carb alternatives to bread are lettuce wraps, cold meat wraps or low carb pizza waffles.
4: Healthy School Lunch Boxes
It can be daunting to think about how to even start a school lunchbox if you have been relying on the standard muesli bars, packets of rice crackers, and a ham sandwich. You just need ideas and plenty of them.
Start looking at meals in a new way. Ignore the marketing hype that certain packaged foods are great for a lunchbox and go back to basics. Don’t worry, I’m not even going to suggest you start cutting little animal shapes out of cheese, or creating carrot flowers, we’re all too busy for that.
In the morning rush, we want to throw some things together that we know will be eaten and not thrown in the trash can. I can’t emphasize this enough, but cook double dinners and have vegetables already sliced in the fridge ready to go.
Posts you may like:
- 2 weeks of easy yummy lunch boxes
- 1 month of low-carb lunch boxes
- 30 healthy lunch box ideas
- high-carb vs low-carb lunch box
5: Involve Your Children
If you really want to know how to make real food for kids something truly enjoyable for them, get your children involved. Start asking them what they like, then make a list. You may be surprised by how many real food options they will give you.
Add new foods to their list as they enjoy new flavours and textures. They will be so proud of themselves as their list grows.
Start looking through the low carb recipes and print/save recipes chosen by your child. Let them create their own cookbook. Take them to the vegetable store and allow them to choose whatever they would like and see if they can dream up a new recipe to use it. Make it fun and make it simple.
6: Drink Water Only
Absolutely NO fizzy drinks, energy drinks or fruit juice from now on. Instead, allow them to choose some beautiful iced teas. I have 11 flavours in my pantry right now. My children love making flavoured waters, it’s fun and colourful. Or a sugar-free berry chia fresca. There are so many better ideas than a soda or juice.
7: Love Your Slow Cooker
Your slow cooker will become your friendly little helper in the kitchen. There is nothing better than coming home to a meal simmering away at the end of a long day.
Many slow cooker meals can be prepared the night before in the slow cooker dish and placed in the fridge. All you have to do is put it in the slow cooker in the morning and turn it on. You can even prepare the vegetables ready to cook fresh when it’s time for dinner.
And remember, leftovers are king, so make double and freeze the rest or enjoy over the following days. Try my self saucing meatballs or beef stroganoff. These are the most popular slow cooker recipes on the website.
8: How to Get Picky Eaters to Eat Real Food for Kids
I can guarantee, every house will have at least one picky eater. Many parents allow them to eat whatever they can whenever they can. This only makes the problem worse.
By allowing them to graze continuously means they will not be hungry before a meal. I think this could be the hardest hurdle to overcome but it is THE most successful tip if you truly want to know how to help your child eat real food.
Dinner will always be more appealing if you are actually hungry. Picky children are getting their energy through nutritionally devoid foods such as bread, flavoured yoghurts, muesli bars, crackers and processed snacks. They snack continuously and never finish their dinner – which should be based on simple real food, not pasta, rice or bread.
My 8-year-old is the picky eater in our house. At dinner, he knows he is allowed to leave one vegetable on his plate. He doesn’t realise I give him plenty of extra vegetables but ends up eating more this way. He feels he has some control in his meal each night.
9: Real Food Snacks That Kids Will Love
Americans now spend more on snacks than meals. If those preservatives in packaged snacks are stopping the bacteria from growing in our food, what is it doing to the beneficial bacteria in our bodies? Our gut health is incredibly important with 75% of our serotonin (the happy hormone) and our immunity being made in our gut.
Sometimes when we are out with our children there may not be real food available, I’m realistic, but let’s see if we can do the best we can as often as we can, then there is less pressure on the occasions when we can’t.
Start snacking on vegetables, healthy dips, eggs, tuna, cold meat, antipasto platters, low sugar smoothies, berries, cream, cheese and all the other possibilities. Children love platters, so fill a plate with colourful nibbles. Take a look at all the Snacks Recipes in the recipe finder.
10: Healthy Oils
Please cut back on deep-fried food when eating out. Much of the oils used are highly processed seed oils such as canola oil or sunflower oil. Seed oils are inflammatory and easily oxidised causing inflammation within our body.
Many modern diseases stem from the inflammation within us caused by the food we eat. We really are not treating our children by serving them these fried foods. If you wouldn’t eat them, why feed them to our children?
At home use oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, butter, and avocado oil and avoid deep-fried food when eating out.
If you are new here this page may help you get started, and this page will guide you through converting to a low carb pantry.
HEALTHY EATING ACTION PLAN
Remember – we are LOW carb, not NO carb. The emphasis is on the real whole food approach, healthy fats, fresh vegetables and good quality proteins.
- Stop buying sugary sweets, drinks and baked goods
- Start buying real unprocessed whole foods. Shop the perimeter of the supermarket for the fresh produce
- Avoid all seed oils and trans fats
- Eat nutrient-dense foods
- Increase your omega 3 from oily fish, avocado, grass-fed meat and nuts
- Cook at home, eat together
- Have fun and keep it simple
Remember it is what we do every day that makes a difference, not what we do once in a while. So make sure eating low carb real food is a daily occurrence.
Teach your children to eat and enjoy REAL FOOD.
Teach them nutrition is the basis of good health.
How To Help Your Child Eat Real Food? Show by example.
You said in your article to let your children try flavored tea. Do you sweeten it with anything, and how to get children used to tea without sugar? Thanks for your site!
My kiddos like fruit teas such as blood orange, forest berries, blackcurrant etc. They don't sweeten their teas. The fruit tea is subtle enough to give them the taste they love. Saying that, if this is day 1 for you, it will take a little time so be kind and easy on yourself. Go slowly. The kiddos who rely on sweetened drinks and can't drink anything else need our help the most. You might want to join my Low-Carb Lunchbox group for more tips and practical help 🙂
We make own water kefir and they have this instead of squash/fizzy drinks/juices, they love it. As I’ve gd at the moment I’m keto and monitoring my sugar levels and I’m crazy sensitive to any carbs/sugars so as the kefir doesn’t raise my levels I’m happy it is minimal sugars in it.. and extremely good for gut bacteria and immunity etc etc despite all the sugar in infredients(which the live culture eats away from finished product).
Then how to deal with the time cost?
Watching with the kids (i.e. the slightly older ones) a few of the food-related movies on Netflix and Amazon TV, like 'That Sugar Movie', 'Love Paleo', 'Fat Sick and Nearly Dead', 'Forks over Knives' etc etc etc helps a lot, the kids soon become the food police, not you! And their behavior starts to influence the younger kids as well.
Some of the movies/docos are admittedly 'propaganda' from groups with particular views, and not all of them necessarily fully align with whatever eating pathway you are going with, but it doesn't really matter as they all seem to have have a common central theme - healthy natural food, no sugar, low carbs etc and most importantly they get the kids really thinking about what they (and you!) are eating. They see the actual 'scientific' reasons for eating in a certain way (ie not just because mum and dad say so) and they also see that it is not just mum and dad who think this way. (You know what it is like, mum and dad know nothing, but if someone else says it, it is gospel....)
Love your advice...any chance your print can be black instead of fine gray? Thx!!
Has anyone any recipes for a fussy eater? My ten year old daughter hates all fruit/veg except carrots cauliflower peas and broccoli. Packed lunch is very meat and cheese health you as a result! Any tips??
These are such great ideas, maybe with summer vacation it may be a good time for me to start. I hate giving my children cereal or store bought waffles, but it is so convenient. I am going to work on this. Thanks for the article.
All I had to do was tell my son that I had Type 2 diabetes. Being overweight himself, the last thing he wanted was to develop diabetes too (he did not like being overweight either). He lost 100 pounds in one year. It was not easy, but he was determined to it. It took a lot of discipline on his part, and I am so proud of him. He continues to live healthy. He is my role model!
I am so proud of you both! 100 lb in a year is simply an outstanding achievement. Continuing to live healthy and happy life is what we all strive and hope for our children isn't it. Please send him my best wishes and a huge congratulations. I bet you are his role model too 🙂
We've slowly stopped purchasing junk items and making snacks consist of fruits, veggies, and other healthy choices. If it's not in the house, it's not an option! I'd love to know how people deal with family members who honestly don't care about your eating ideals!
I've been lucky to find LCHF whilst mine are still little - one is 3 (was 2 when we started properly) and the other is 6 and half months. What I've found interesting is how long I spent in his younger days trying (and failing) to get him to eat bread and cereals, so transitioning was easy as he was so young. He has a lot of fruit and loves the occasional square of 90% chocolate. Biscuits, cake etc are still treats at Grandparents though as we haven't convinced then yet!!
It's also been more enjoyable starting solids with my daughter these last few weeks and not having to cook twice!
Thank you for creating this site and providing the reassurance that I'm not mad, or wrong for not giving my kids bread, biscuits etc egg and the inspiration for meals - especially lunches!
Thank you for this. I needed this confirmation that it's not crazy to want to feed my almost 2 year old this way. My husband and I already follow LCHF. But I have struggled with what to feed son. We eat extremely low carb right now since we areally actively trying to loose weight. Is there a amount of carbs I should aim for in his diet. I of course wouldn't want to restrict him to our 20g or less.
Oops. Sorry for the typos. On mobile right now.
I am not so strict with my children, they are active, fit, healthy and within the normal range. They eat fruit, but only 1 or 2 low sugar fruits a day (they used to gorge on pineapple and mango). I just want them to eat unprocessed lower carb real food and ditch the sugary road, juice and junk, then that is brilliant.
My girls said they wish I hadn't said anything. Just kind of transitioned us over quietly! Strange, eh! With so many good recipes, they're right! They probably wouldn't have noticed!
Terri I reckon that is a great suggestion. The funny thing with my children is they see me taking photos of dinner before they are allowed to tuck in, and they offer me suggestions all the time (albeit usually a sweet recipe). They have now become supermarket warriors and whisper how much $%^# is in other trolleys. So funny. My 8 yr old said to me a while ago "fast food doesn't make you fast" - out of the mouths of babes huh! Libby.
LOL! "Fast food doesn't make you fast..." Kids are hilarious!
He comes out with some crack ups that boy!