Before our son got diagnosed with Celiac Disease, we were going down a seriously deep and unforgiving path of buying unhealthy, pre-packaged, preservative filled garbage at the grocery store. As the mini brownies, canned spaghetti and frozen taquitos started taking over our kitchen, I noticed that my son was starting to feel worse and worse with every bite. I will never forget the day the pediatrician called with Tommy’s test results. It took only moments to change our eating habits forever.
The whole house went Gluten Free after that call and we put Tommy on a one month WHOLE FOODS cleanse to rid his body of all the poison we had been feeding him (unknowingly) for the past few months. I learned so much and am still learning how the whole family can eat healthy without cooking or meal prepping taking over our lives. Here are some things we did to have whole foods ready and available in our home and more importantly, foods a toddler would actually want to eat.
- WE CLEANED OUT OUR PANTRY: We got rid of all the SHIT that made us feel like SHIT. We kept our “treats” on the very top shelf of a cabinet I couldn’t reach without a stool (I’m 5’2″, that’s not hard to do in my kitchen). Out of sight means out of mind for the whole family.
- SECTION PLATES: Pay attention to the sections on kids plates. After Tommy was diagnosed with a gluten allergy, he was severely malnourished – and OH BOY did those dark circles under his eyes and lethargy show it. He was extremely deficient in Protein and Vitamin D. Protein, which is just as important for adults as it is for kids, now became the star of the show at meal times. I started sectioning his plate off into: Proteins, Vegetables, and Healthy Fats/Starches. To give you an idea, one meal might include simple seasoned chicken breast with grilled asparagus and butternut squash. Another meal would have been homemade gluten free meatloaf, mashed cauliflower and roasted carrots with olive oil. You get the idea.
- CUT UP EVERYTHING AFTER YOU GET HOME FROM THE GROCERY STORE AND BAG THAT SHIT UP: Cut up and wash produce for snacks and quick meal add-ons: cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, snap/sugar peas (so good!), radishes, and cauliflower. Chop up for omelettes and mix ins: onions, tomato, spinach, greens (for salads) and mushrooms. Bag or put in to-go containers: grapes, carrots, raspberries, sliced oranges, grapefruit, etc. I even started divvying up serving sizes of crackers, cheese, lunch meat, and cereal just so I could grab and go. This not only cut down on MY meal prep time, but it only took about 30 minutes to do after my grocery trip.
- ALWAYS KEEP THE FRUIT BOWL FULL: Honestly, when is the last time you ate an apple… plain… just an apple. This realization hit me like a Mack Truck the moment Tommy wanted a snack and I quickly grabbed the closest thing to me… an apple. I thought to myself, when was the last time I ate JUST an apple without anything accompanying it? TRUTH: It had been years… (palm to face). A friend of mine had once told me there’s a rule at her house that she follows for snacks. Her kids always have to ask permission to have a snack but they can grab any fruits or vegetables without permission. I think this is a fabulous way to help your kids not only think for themselves, but to help them choose a healthier option.
- IF YOU DON’T EAT YOUR MEAT, YOU CAN’T HAVE ANY PUDDING: (Any Pink Floyd fans out there?) Cook your meat ahead of time! Seriously, get your crockpot out, place the FROZEN chicken (yes, I know I said frozen and you’re getting so excited!) in the crockpot, turn that shit up to 11 – just kidding – turn it to High (any Spinal Tap fans out there?) and cook for 3.5 hours. This literally takes 5 minutes to prep. BOOM!
- Don’t over-complicate this. Sometimes you just have to throw whatever is in your fridge or what’s ready to expire in a bowl and pray a Hail Mary that your kid likes it. The first picture with my son is a bowl of tuna fish, golden berries, lentils, broccoli slaw and a homemade dressing that was about to go bad. IT WORKED and it rocked. #momwin
Here are some other helpful tips:
-If your child is not used to eating veggies/fruits start with the sweeter ones: sweet potato, butternut squash, sugar/snap peas (dude, seriously these rock), carrots, corn, etc. Add honey, peanut butter, chocolate chips to sweet potatoes to make them more enticing. Mmmmm, now we’re talkin’. Plus, this is a great snack or dessert!
-Make smoothies! Kids LOVE a fun colored drink (and frankly, so do I) then add spinach to it. You can’t even taste it. Then, make double the recipe and put the other half in Popsicle molds for a delicious and healthy treat later. You’re so tricky, mama 😉
-Start naming the food fun names. If your child is young enough, this could work. “Hey Tommy! Have you ever tried my peaches on a cloud recipe?” It’s a super secret recipe that requires cottage cheese and peaches on top. Also, you can make a smiley face with toast and peanut butter. Add a little honey for the hair or eyelashes.
-Try a sweet & savory version. If you make a sandwich, try making one half PB&J and the other half turkey and cheese. Kids love variety and are so quick to move onto the next thing.
-DIPS! Holy moly, put some chopped up chicken on a plate and put about 5 dips in front of your kid. You can dip: ranch, ketchup, BBQ sauce, mustard, salsa…the list goes on! Try mixing Greek Yogurt with… anything. Mix 2 sauces together to make a MEGA SAUCE! Ketchup & BBQ, Plain Greek Yogurt and Mustard, the possibilities are endless and kids love the choices of dips. You can always find a clean eating variation of ranch, ketchup and mayo on Pinterest as well.
-Pre-make hard boiled eggs and put guacamole on top for a Hard Boiled Egg Variation. Add bacon….because BACON.
-My husband and I also prepare 10 frozen crockpot meals about once every 2 months and stick them in the freezer for those nights that you can actually remember to take them out so they’re unthawed and ready to be put in the crockpot the next morning. I HATE, no wait, LOATHE thinking about what we are going to have for dinner. It always hits me about an hour before I have to pick up the kids from daycare and on those days we end up having breakfast for dinner… hey, it works.
-Don’t have time to cook anything and need a quick on-the-go snack or meal? Grab some hard boiled eggs, celery, peanut butter and a couple cheese slices for something quick. This is great for you or your kids because let’s be honest, if you seem interested in eating that piece of chewed gum you saw on a park bench, your toddler is going to want it too.
Here are some other easy and fun kid recipes I found on Pinterest that deserve a look:
Healthy Greek Yogurt Veggie Dip: 1 cup greek yogurt, 1 avocado, 1 ranch seasoning packet, juice from lime and lemon -blend in bullet. (Omit the ranch seasoning packet and add spices (salt, pepper, garlic, etc) if you wan to go clean). Recipe from bloglovin.com.
Having a toddler that is Gluten Free means always being prepared. All this being said, I can’t say that I haven’t tossed a frozen pizza in the car to bring to daycare for bring-your-own-lunch-day. Kids need ice cream and a little fun every now and then, too. We do have cookies and air heads at our house and if I get the stool out, I can get them for you.
If you have any other suggestions PLEASE comment below!
Written in love, hope and peanut butter by: Christi Brown
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