With muesli bars and chips marketed directly to kids with cute cartoon characters and bright colours, it can be hard to convince the little ones to opt for wholesome, nutritious foods over their friends’ lunchbox snacks. Here’s how you can get your kids to just eat real food (JERF) – and have them enjoying it.
Kids’ lunches are often laden with hidden sugars – even parents with the best of intentions unknowingly pack snacks with preservatives, sugars and trans fats, that is the consequence of the reign of ultra-processed foods over our supermarkets. Foods we might think of as healthy – fruit yoghurts, for instance – are often a ghost of their former self, stripped of their healthy fats and replaced with added sugars. This makes it especially hard to navigate the world lunchbox snacks – but that’s where JERF comes in. This movement is all about ditching the ultra-processed stuff and opting for whole foods – and this means we know exactly what’s in our food. But we’re not just talking about eating steamed spinach here – it doesn’t have to be boring. Here’s how you can get the kids enjoying the JERF life.
Add a bit of colour
Including a rainbow of colourful fruit and veg is one of the best ways to make whole foods appealing. For instance, when making a salad, combine bright carrots with yellow tomatoes, cheese, red kidney beans, beetroot and bright green kale – add a little salt and olive oil and you’ve got yourself a killer salad! Not only is the colour more appealing to kids, it also exposes them to a greater variety of produce, which sets them up to take in more nutrients. Purple produce is known for a rich antioxidant profile, and this is because of a compound known as anthocyanin. This is a coloured pigment which is known as a flavonoid and it acts as an antioxidant to fight inflammation and boost our immunity. Foods with purple, blue and deep red pigments are exceptionally rich in anthocyanin. Orange foods tend to be rich in carotenoids, a known immune and eye-sight booster.
Then we’ve got the greens which do wonders for our bones and blood – as you can see, the more colour the better! Instead of putting processed spreads on your kid’s sandwich, try beetroot, avocado and cheese for a fun, bright flavour mix. Here are a few colourful ideas:
- Pumpkin and basil pasta
- Baked veggies – beetroot, carrot, pumpkin and fennel
- Haloumi, kidney bean and spinach wrap
- Veggie sticks with hummus or avocado dip
Plant your own produce
Kids often enjoy getting creative and hands-on, and there’s nothing more hands on than growing your own food. Things like herb gardens – or pots if you live in an apartment – are easy to grow, and the kids can easily pick the leaves off. They can even get involved in making their own lunch – when they’re involved in the preparation, they’re more likely to eat the food.
Make it a challenge
An easy way to get kids excited about just eating real food is to make it a challenge. Dare them to enjoy a variety of whole foods and count how many different types of produce they can try in a month. This also encourages them to step outside of their comfort zone and try new foods, as they try to reach a higher number of foods they’ve tried, they’ll end up requesting produce they might not have considered before. This can help them acquire tastes for nutritious foods of the fermented kind which are helpful to boost the gut microbiome.
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