One of the reasons why organic food is so important is that it helps kids foster a taste for real food. No day-glo colours or ‘not possible in nature’ flavours, eating organically will help children appreciate natural variations in flavour and texture in their food. Below I outline some tips and tricks to help you nourish your kids.
Why is it important to feed kids organic food from a young age?
- Choosing organic foods also helps you avoid additives like artificial preservatives and colours such as tartrazine, which is thought to be linked to behavioural challenges in those who are sensitive to them.
- Children’s bodies are experiencing a rate of growth that makes them more susceptible to changes in nutrition and environmental exposures. While feeding a healthy, whole foods diet will always be priority one, if you are concerned about additives and pesticide exposure, organic is a good way to go.
- Food is our primary exposure source for organophosphate pesticides; exposure to organophosphates has been linked to a host of potential effects. Research shows that when feeding children an organic diet, the amount of pesticide clearance in their body drops dramatically after just a few days.
What about kids who are already picky eaters?
Talking to your kids about the joy of eating a variety of different – a.k.a. ‘not boring’ foods will be more effective than simply telling them to eat their broccoli because it is good for them. In my house, we talk a lot about being a ‘good eater’: how there is a whole world of experience and flavours awaiting them and it’s more fun to be curious than dismissive about food. Of course, going deeper into the function of food helps too. One study famously found that serving kids ‘laser vision carrots’ as opposed to just ‘carrots’, helped them eat more.
- Getting kids involved in food preparation and selection helps boost intake.
- If you have a garden – or even just room for a pot – let your kids grow something!
- Take your kids grocery shopping and challenge them to select one new fruit or vegetable each week.
- When introducing new foods, work them into favourite foods… it’s evidence-based to increase acceptance. Add spinach to lasagna or put lentils into tacos!
Tips for packing interesting and nutritious lunches that kids will actually eat
Stock your fridge and pantry with organic options that are kid (tasty), mom (organic), and school (peanut-free) approved. It’s tough for parents because sometimes when their kids see their peers’ lunches with all sorts of goodies and junk food they don’t understand why they can’t have it too. Believe me, as a dietitian, I have to navigate very carefully why I won’t put dunking cookies in my son’s lunch.
It’s all about compromise, and it’s important kids get some things that they’ll view as treats, but that you as a parent you also feel good about giving them. This can be things like:
- Their favourite fruit or a nut-free trail mix full of seeds and roasted chickpeas (throw in some organic chocolate chips for a treat).
- Organic granola bars that are peanut-free so they’re safe to take to school and not full of artificial flavours or ingredients.
How do you build healthy routines for your kids?
The routine piece is key. Children respond well to structure around food as they do in other areas of their life. Such as adherence to family meal times. And understanding what does… and what does not… go into lunches.
When I pack a lunch, I will often ask my son to make choices based on options I provide. For example, would you like a wrap or a sandwich? An apple or a plum? Cheese or Sunbutter? I try to make lunches as I make or clear up dinner. It’s much easier to navigate packing lunches – for the grown ups too – when you aren’t running around like crazy.