Posts in Children
How making dietary changes with kids can be easy (and fun!)
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Hey, hey, Mae: I struggle with getting my kids to even try new foods, so they’re stuck on their favorites and those contain loads of what we may need to try an elimination for.
How can I make this work for our family?

For the most part we’ve all had to do it.  The baby is gassy so Mom cuts dairy for a season.  A friend is stopping by who can’t have peanuts, so we switch up our lunch menu.  Or maybe Dad received a diabetes diagnosis, so sugary foods are removed from our cabinets and the family must go on.  Implementing food changes can be easy...until our feelings and our kids’ opinions get involved, right?

Our family’s shift into going gluten and dairy-free came on pretty quickly.  My sickness hit quickly and progressed rapidly into multiple autoimmune diseases alongside a hefty bout with mono.  I had simultaneously just realized the connection to gluten and dairy as triggers for other health issues within the family, so we made those cuts house-wide.  I spent the next 18 months eating the autoimmune paleo diet to heal and eventually reverse some of my autoimmune disease. It was a worthy endeavor, but it was tricky on my heart and on the day-to-day meal prep as a sick body with two preschool sons.  I had to figure out how to skip eggs, gluten, dairy, nuts, seeds, nightshades, sugar and a couple other intolerances for myself while still feeding our family. And fortunately it was used for good as /I kept introducing my meals to the boys alongside theirs and slowly got to meld the two as the boys became more accustomed to variety.

For us, I was steering the food boat and the boys were tiny and riding it.  I also had a lot on the line as I was significantly held back by my sicknesses and needed to get better for the sake of my tiny sons.  Food changes aren’t always this pressing and can often be pretty tricky. In that season I learned lots about switching up foods, family-wide - to either widen our palates or meet our changing dietary needs.  Here are some tips on making food changes, whether you make many at once or simply do a family-wide or individual food elimination for a few weeks.

Swap for a substitution

Basics first.  Going to be eliminating dairy?  Choose a replacement for as many places that you’d traditionally use dairy.  Get wise about the available alternatives! There are many nut cheeses that you can grab to take for the girls’ night charcuterie spread.  If you tolerate goat or sheep’s milk, perhaps you get familiar with local farmers who sell their cheese. Grab an almond, macadamia and coconut milk next time you’re at the grocery so you’ve got multiple alternatives for replacing your toddler’s nightcap.  Whatever you do, don’t start you elimination until you have some substitutes for favorites.

Plan for those food celebrations

Our food gets us in our feelings a LOT so we want to be sure you’ve got options. Birthday party coming up?  Grab a can of dairy-free icing at the grocery before hand or pop over to my pinterest boards to find a suitable birthday cake substitution.  You can even search out local establishments that take the prep work out of “___-free” foods - a local allergen free bakery or even your local whole foods will have some easy options.  

Approach food holidays and traditions with a plan.  My boys and I do hot chocolate and whipped cream on Christmas Eve as a fun little nightcap.  Weeks before, I spent a little pinterest time perusing through ideas for Christmas cookie substitutes and also made a plan to grab chocolate almond milk to easily heat and tossed a can of coconut cream in the fridge so I could scoop some “whip” into their cups.  We didn’t miss out on the tradition and it was stress-free for me because I planned ahead.  No one was sad and frankly - no one thought anything of the melty coconut cream because we were doing our thing.  

Many items in small quantities

When working in new foods, present newbies alongside old favorites and cut down on the quantities you serve.  When we’re adding a new item the boys haven’t had, I will make their plates with 3 pieces of each food available that night.  They generally get to the end of their plate, are still starving and will often ask for more of everything without a second guess.

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Prepare a food many ways

When adding in a new food, I often try to present a raw piece alongside a cooked piece.  Tonight we had roasted broccoli, so I tossed a small frozen piece next to the roasted one and an additional raw piece.  One boy ate all three, the other ate all but the frozen and just before bed they both asked to have a frozen piece to knaw on.  Now. I can’t say that I would have ever thought of frozen broccoli as great, but the boys like it at the moment and I like that they’re chowing down on veggies before bed.  I apply this rule to eggs a LOT. I’ll cook one egg scrambled, fry one next to it and slice a hard boiled egg in half. I’ll serve all three in a line and often they all get eaten and the boys have good questions about how they’re prepared, why they look that way, etc.  Sometimes it earns me conversation at breakfast!

Present fun food right next to veggie

Shake it up a bit.  Be wise about how you present the foods to your kiddos.  I like to put sweet and boring foods right next to one another.  I keep everything tidy and not touching because heaven forbid a child’s food touch!  I make sure to make not make a scene about which foods are yummier than others or reserve foods for the end of the meal.  If the boys want to eat all their fruit first - cool. They can eat all of their chicken last. It doesn’t matter to me the order, nor do I spotlight foods in lesser categories (veggies, eh) or “oooo!” categories (strawberries).  

Institute extras

With kiddos, sometimes play is key.  Both of my boys around 2-years-old were fascinated by dips and sauces.  With every meal they got a dip or two and meal time collided with playtime.  Dips can be anything from a protein yogurt to applesauce to pesto. The sky’s the limit when it comes to dips - remember that you set their food “norms.”  Pesto is just as much a dip for chicken as ketchup is if you make it so.  

My boys love it when I pair foods for them on the plate.  If I think they’d enjoy their noodles with a dollop of goat cheese, I plate them next to one another.  Since I know they love a dip for strawberries, I’ll put a dollop of coconut cream next to the berries and toss in a new piece of fruit they they may enjoy dipped.  Shapes and skewers count as extras, too. Roll that pickle inside of a piece of salami and stick a toothpick in it? I guarantee you your son will try it.  Call a skewere a fruit sword? Again….boys will down it all.  My last trick to keep some small cookie cutters handy.  I’ll press their watermelon out in fun shapes and eat the scraps myself.  Adding a little fun in for busy bodies almost always helps.

Community Plates

This is a great option for when you’re eliminating a food group.  Eliminating gluten family wide? Have a new-gluten night. Prepare a platter with several gluten free crackers, several vegetables slices in chip shapes and a few gluten free toast points.  Serve the plate alongside a favorite dip or few and use this happy introduction as a simple way to show your family the alternatives available. Make food changes normal and brave by talking about them and letting the family experience the options.  

Community plates can be great for kids to explore new foods, too.  Weekly, we’ll do a platter lunch. I place 6 or so pieces of a bunch of different foods on a plate and we 3 will share the platter together.  The boys get to watch me try the foods first and a younger brother will often mimic the older brother by trying something he otherwise wouldn’t.  And bonus? Just one dish to clean up! It also makes for sweet conversation! Another variation of this is to put various foods in each well of a muffin tin.  For some reason, digging in to grab their food is such a fun challenge and experiment.

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Locally and seasonally

Take your family for a stroll through the farmer’s market.  Give each child a bit of money to purchase what they like. Challenge the older kids to find a replacement food for the food they can’t have.  Maybe you can add in a trip to the blueberry patch or strawberry field. When we’re involved in our food choices, we’re more likely to eat them.  And bonus to eating seasonally and locally, these foods are usually a bit less money and better quality. Seek out local foods and bring the kids along - you’ll be surprised what you find in your own community!

Whatever you do, play it cool

When I present a new food or drop a less-loved food onto their plates, I typically deliver the plate and resume what I was doing in the kitchen.  Or I’ll set their plates down with mine and move right into prayer and eating. I don’t watch their plates. I don’t comment on the new or missing food.  I don’t ask their opinion, I get right to eating mine - usually leading with the least loved food that I fed.

Water cures all

My final tip is one your Mom told me to add.  Water covers a multitude of sins. It’s a rule in our house - if you’re struggling, have an attitude, were rude, seem weary, have a headache, don’t want to get moving, your belly hurts...pretty much anything - you can down a glass of water.  There are miles of reasons for why hydration is so effective, but the biggest shift I see when I ask my littles to drink a glass is their disposition. We start every meal with a juice glass full of water and they are expected to complete the glass before their next meal.  It’s easy, but it keeps everything and everyone moving as it should. It also keeps everyone a little more willing to try new things!

Affirmations for Children: Raising Kid's EQ
Affirmations for Children: Raising Kids' EQ | Mindfulness can feel like a big mountain to climb, then you throw kids in the mix and it seems like a lofty goal: a far-and-away idea that is less than possible.

Mindfulness can feel like a big mountain to climb, then you throw kids in the mix and it seems like a lofty goal: a far-and-away idea that is less than possible. However, the research doesn’t lie - mindfulness and meditation combat stress, poor moods and anxiety. On the flip side, it fosters compassion for others, self-compassion, improved focus and moods - even combats depression. It can often impact relationships, chronic disease, weight loss, physical pain and improve our sleep! Meditation has even been found to shift the outcome of breast cancer. Hope!

Any kiddos out there struggling to sleep?

Rewiring our brains is possible and happens through activities like mindfulness, meditation and affirmations. It’s these exercises for the mind that build up and nourish positive pathways for traits like focus and decision making to improve - even sleep! While we add in the good and fortify the positive, less positive pathways diminish - resulting in less fear and stress.

Sounds great for Mommy, but kiddos, too?

While we don’t typically think of children as experiencing stress or battling depression and anxiety, they do! As they develop, many ordinary things happen that they don’t yet have the tools to understand or respond to. Then there are the bigger road bumps like bullying, mental health issues (ADHD, ADD, ASD etc.), divorce, death, loss, stress in the home or even interacting with their peers who experience these complications in life - then these peers act out because of the experiences they can’t understand in their lives and our kids struggle secondarily.

Our sweet family has weathered the above list and then some. What started as a breath-work practice for me targeted at retraining my body that experienced abuse - turned into meditation, free-writing and lots of affirmations to combat my past reality triggering my present physical body. When I saw the shift in my racing heart and reeling mind that was often triggered by the simple presence of a male, I was intrigued to help my boys.

We began with simple, general affirmations, developed some specifically to their trials and picked up some from a favorite teacher. Cal recently recited a few of his favorite lines when he faced a struggle and Tru reminded himself that “I did hard things! I can do what I put my mind to!” on the ride home after a tricky swim lesson.

So how do we integrate affirmations and mindfulness into life with a 2 and 5-year-old?

 

Diligence counts here - so do car rides. When I find there’s a lull in the play or the car has grown quiet, I’ll simple tell the boys we’re gonna take a couple breaths together. If they’re up I’ll bring them in by making it a game - who can breathe in the loudest? who can exhale the longest? When they’re down I’ll match their mood and quietly suggest we take some strong breaths together and remember things we’re great at! They’ll usually wind down after 3 breaths or get excited to particiapte and I’ll simply make a statement and ask them to repeat it.

ME: “I have good things to say!” Say it back to Momma?

BOYS: “I have good things to say.”

ME: “YES you do! I love the things you have to say; I have good things to say!”

BOYS: “I have good things to say.”

Sometimes I’ll move right into another affirmation, or Tru will ask a question about something he recently said that provoked response in another. Often I’ll move to a building affirmation - something that the child specifically needs to hear or will combat a harmful situation they’re enduring.

ME: “No one is more important than me, and I am no more important than anyone else. Can you say that long one?”

BOYS: “No one is more important than me, and I am no more important than anyone else.”

ME: “OH WOW, you can even remember long ones! That’s right - no one is more important, and we all listen to others speak. Can you pick your favorite learning to tell to me?”

BOYS: “I have good things to say and I listen to people?”

ME: “Ah, that’s so good and true boys. I know you treat others with respect, no matter who they are.”

At this point, they’ll either repeat some version of what I’ve said or wander off in to their own play or minds. Both are fine with me. If they’re still focused, we’ll continue with a couple more or I’ll end it by thanking them for talking about important things with me.

 

Little by little, these mini-meditations have increased the boys’ conversational focus, have brought out scary issues they’d not brought up on their own and has increased their confidence in the face of fear. Sometimes one boy won’t participate or will treat them as silly. Sometimes they’re simple and combat discipline issues - “I don’t bite anyone. I bite my food.” They also work wonders at bedtime, particularly if I’m planting them in the day. “I am full from my good day and now I’ll let my body rest!”


Daily, I’m still planting them - like we do scripture songs and immediate lessons - into their little hearts and minds, because those things surface when life is scary, something is hard or there is a challenge with a friend and no adult around to help make sense of it. Equipping our kids to handle the stressors, traumas and suffering we all experience can be such a gift to them - and a gift to the world if we focus some of our affirmations around the treatment and respect of others.

 

Here’s a growing list of my favorite affirmations for kids (and Mommas!) -would love to hear yours and your experiences in the comments!

Affirmations for Children: Equipping Kids' EQ | Equipping our kids to handle the stressors, traumas and suffering we all experience can be such a gift to them - and a gift to the world if we focus some of our affirmations around the treatment and respect of others.

I am smart.

I am accepted.

I am loved.  Jesus loves me.  He delights in me. 

My mom delights in me. My mom loves me.

No matter what's going on in my life, I love myself...UNCONDITIONALLY. 

No one is more important than me, and I am no more important than anyone else.

I am funny.  

I am brave.  God gives me courage!

I have good things to say.  

I am a friendly guy.

I am not intimidated because I am bold and full of courage. 

I make wise decisions that bring health and life.

I make wise choices.

Affirmations for Children: Raising Kid's EQ | So how do we integrate affirmations and mindfulness into life with a 2 and 5-year-old?

I am great at my number one job to listen and obey - I listen and obey my mom. Then I can learn to listen and obey God.

I have a strong mind that is alert and receptive.

I do ALL things with excellence. 

I give my best.

I accomplish whatever I put my mind to if I put in the effort.

I prosper in all things.

I take set backs as temporary and bounce back quickly.

I control my attitudes and my emotions because I control my thoughts. 

I can change my mind with truth.  ( I renew my thoughts to the truth of Gods word, so I can renew my feelings, emotions and attitudes)

I choose my attitude.

I can manage what I’ve been given, because all things work together for my good.

I expect to do well because I am prepared, I am able and I will do my best. 

I can learn.

I can try new things.

I show love to everyone I meet.  

God has not given me a spirit of fear.  God has given me a spirit of power!  God has given me a spirit of love! God has given me a sound mind and a spirit to use it with!

I do not fear be because I am accepted

I do not fear because I am loved

Perfect love casts out fear

I am found in Perfect Love because God is love and God lives in me. Love lives in me.

God has not given me a spirit of fear but of Power, Love and a Sound Mind.

Affirmations for Children: Raising Kid's EQ While we don’t typically think of children as experiencing stress or battling depression and anxiety, they do!  As they develop, many ordinary things happen that they don’t yet have the tools to understand or respond to.

REFERENCES

Headspace. (2019) https://www.headspace.com/science/meditation-benefits

Mayer, B., Polak MG, Remmerswaal D. (2019) Mindfullness, Interpretation Bias, and Levels of Anxiety and Depression: Two Meditation Studies. doi:10.1007/s12671-018-0946-8

Rosen, K. D., Paniagua, S. M., Kazanis, W., Jones, S., & Potter, J. S. (2018). Quality of Life Among Women Diagnosed with Breast Cancer: A Randomized Waitlist Controlled Trial of Commercially Available Mobile App-Delivered Mindfulness Training. Psycho-Oncology. doi:10.1002/pon.4764

It's All About the Elderberry Lego Gummies

While you don’t have to shape these immune-boosting gummies into various sized Lego-men and bricks, I do quite enjoy these lego gummy molds, and my little men go bananas for them! I grabbed these molds off of amazon and use a turkey baster to fill them up. Use a baster for gummy making - it’ll change your life! So much easier.

I made these as a riff on Danielle Walker’s recent cookbook recipe. Hers calls for using elderberries to simmer and then make the gummies, but I don’t have berries and I did have elderberry syrup a friend made for us. It’s also an easy buy at the store, these days, or a quick Amazon grab. I prefer to choose a syrup made with Honey, but you do you! I also wanted to add a little more tang, lower pH and vitamin C so I added a bit more lemon juice. These elderberry gummies come together well and I think you’ll like them lots, jello mold or not!

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Elderberry Syrup Gummies

Description of Recipe

Makes: 2 cups Gummies

Name of image (title of post is fine)

Prep time:

Cook time:

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 c. Elderberry Syrup
  • 1/2 c. Apple Juice
  • 1/2 c. Pomegranate Juice
  • 2 T Lemon Juicee
  • 2 T honey
  • 1/4 c. Gelatin

Instructions:
  1. Combine all ingredients in a pan over medium heat, except gelatin. Bring just to before simmer.
  2. Whisk in gelatin. Pour slowly to avoid clumping and whisk until combined.
  3. Reduce heat and leave at just below a simmer 8-10 minutes, whisking occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat and promptly divide among silicone trays using a turkey baster. Place in fridge to set.

I hope (and know!) your littles will love these as much as mine. I often serve 1-2 gummies as dessert to lunch on our school days or for a snack here and there. I’ve also subbed the pomegranate for other juices that I had on hand and they’ve worked great. I love to choose raw, local honey when possible, too - but often squeeze in my costco honey. For a fun little sour boost, I’ll roll them in Natural Calm Magnesium powder right before serving or dip their feet in the powder and call them snow day lego guys. Possibilities are endless! Enjoy!

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