How I taught my daughter about real food

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How to Teach Your Kids About Healthy Real Food

I remember before we started eating a real food diet full of saturated fats and no refined sugars, we were trying to eat ‘healthy’. I was put off by children’s books that contained ice cream and cupcakes as the central thread of the story. Those were ‘junk’ foods and were ‘bad’ – why should they the coolest part of the story?! I could see that this approach would lead to a negative perception of certain foods and this did not jive with how I wanted my daughter to be raised. I didn’t want food categories to be labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘healthy’ or ‘junk’ and I certainly didn’t want my daughter to grow up thinking she was ‘bad’ if she ate ice cream or cupcakes.

A new perspective

This past year has given me a whole new perspective on my attitude to food in general. It is amazing how different your brain treats food when your body is well nourished, full and happy. However, there was still the challenge of thinking through how to talk about this new way of food thinking with my three year old daughter. She is and will be surrounded by processed or ‘fake’ food (as we call it) we just don’t eat. But I did want her to be able to distinguish a ‘real’ cookie from a ‘fake’ one. I had to come up with new words to describe these foods. And I had to put this in a positive and empowering light for her. I could get overwhelmed by how the cards are so stacked against real food for kids today. I could view it as stressful and just give up. Instead I viewed this as an opportunity.

So what has been working? Surprisingly enough, I think what works the best is our taste buds! The food we make now just tastes so flavorful and ‘real’. The food we eat out just tastes so boring and flavorless, it kind of makes my job easy talking to my daughter about these differences. It is amazing how much she does understand. She knows what tastes good and what doesn’t. I am teaching her what nourishment tastes like. Because we don’t eat processed food often, we all feel it in our bodies in a negative way when we do eat it. I devised a way that works for us on how to talk about what real food is but also to balance that with a respect and appreciation of food and for those who provide us with food. I wanted to teach my daughter to enjoy food, not be fussy about it and also to be thankful for it no matter the situation she finds herself in.

Real Food Talking Points for Kids

  • Real food is homemade, takes time to prepare and doesn’t come in colorful packaging with characters.
  • Real food has colors from nature, not bright colors like your markers.
  • Fake foods are full of chemicals that can make us sick.
  • Eat foods that will fill you up your tummy like eggs, meat and cheeses so you can make it to the next meal without being too hungry.
  • Respect animals and only eat them if they are raised on farms like in your favorite books (like The Big Red Barn).
  • Real food treats are made with honey or maple syrup instead of sugar.
  • Sugar is toxic and eating it will give you crooked teeth and cavities and can make you very sick when you are older.
  • Bread makes our tummies hurt if we eat too much of it.
  • Eat ‘sour’ foods (our word for fermented) with every meal to get the ‘good bugs’ in our tummies so we can help our bodies fight ‘bad bugs’
  • You don’t have to love all foods you are served, but you do have to try them with a smile and a thank you to the person who made it for you.
  • What you decide to eat is your choice – it is your body – not mine!

I know that last one is shocking but I have found when I tell her that she really does end up making the right choice because it takes the power struggle out of the equation – she is in charge!

Do you talk to your kids about food? What tips can you share?

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I am a very busy real food mama! When I am not taking care of my 5 year old, I take time to share my real food recipes on my blog, Homemade Mommy. I finds the time for homemade cooking because eating this way has truly changed my family’s life. Ditching processed food has helped us all to heal from a number of ailments including asthma, allergies, recurrent sinus infections and ADHD. I buy organic, from family farms, local and grass-fed. I am passionate about achieving vibrant health and am happy to share tips, techniques and recipes in my eBook, The Real Food Survival Guide for Busy Moms which is an excellent resource for any busy mom (or dad) who wants to cook real food for their family but is not sure how to take the plunge.

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54 Responses to How I taught my daughter about real food

  1. Masha says:

    Dear Lyndsey,

    This post is just in time! I have also fairly recently embarked on the real food journey. My daughter will be three soon and she had already had 8 cavities filled, which was a huge shock to me and thats how I found Weston Price Foundation and then your blog! She never had any sugar, not even brown, but had a lot of honey based cough sirup due to bronchitis, i think that might have been the culprit. Now I too try to explain to her what is good and real and your suggestions on how to explain are so valuable and helpful. We managed to explain about whats good for teeth and now she asks me “Mummy, can I have something which is good for my teeth?” :) Yesterday she had an extra piece of beef heart because its good for her teeth :) Keep up your blogging and Facebook! you are a huge inspiration to me!

  2. Kaley says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing- love these tips!

  3. Robin says:

    Love the idea of calling processed food ‘fake food’. I’ve been telling J “we don’t eat that” but ‘fake food’ is much better!

  4. susan says:

    I’m not crazy about the terms ‘real food’ and ‘fake food’. To us, ‘fake food’ is the play food their dolls eat. We use the terms ‘healthy food’ and ‘processed food’. We try not to eat food that was made in a factory. Just like we don’t eat our toys that are made in factories.

  5. Nice article! I agree, from my experience both as a parent and as a child, that knowing WHY your family eats differently from some other families is important.

    One thing you may want to talk about, though, is how/when to speak of these issues to people who eat differently. My son got into trouble at preschool for talking about slaughterhouses at the lunch table while the others were eating chicken nuggets and he was eating beans from home. I explained to him that, although it is quite true that we do not eat those nuggets because they are made from sick chickens fed drugs all their lives, processed in dirty slaughterhouses, breaded with GMO corn and nerve-disrupting flavor enhancers, and fried in trans fat…it is rude to criticize others’ food choices, and it is rude to discuss yucky topics while eating. He understood and never had an incident like that again.

    I understand Susan’s concern about the term “fake food.” We call things “fake” only when they truly are–for example, NutraSweet is a “fake sugar.” I am hyper-sensitive to artificial sweeteners, and my son now marches up to the free-sample people in Costco (when the food they’re sampling is anything that possibly would be sweetened) and demands, “Does it have fake sugar?” The scary thing is how rarely they know the answer to that question.

    • Totally agree – I have been talking to her about not telling anyone how to eat or criticizing what they are eating – just like we don’t tell people their clothes are something we don’t like! We have to be sensitive and not hurt other people’s feelings as always! Thank you for your comments!

  6. Tricia Swenson says:

    Nice. But sugar doesn't give kids crooked teeth. Don't you follow Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist? Haven't you read "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration"? You should know what causes crooked teeth then.

    • Lindsey Bernat Gremont says:

      I am just keeping it simple for this post. We do talk about lot about Vitamin K2 at home! Thank you for your comment!

  7. Great post! We focus a lot on flavors and how good real food makes us feel. That resonates well with my boys.

  8. Thanks for sharing this. I think we're getting close to the age where this will come in handy!

    • Katsya Kochergen says:

      Nice post but just an FYI 3 yr olds like to please Mama…but when they get older near and in their teen years it is much harder to have them make the right choice for their bodies on their own…so your last point well I have had to deal with my kids making a bad food choice i did not like and it was hard..alot changes from 3 to 13 yrs old…more birthday parties etc

      • It is pretty easy at 3 because of this! I always say I can control now so might as well. Once she goes off to kindergarten the ball is in her court – she has to be in control at that point and all you can do it gently nudge! Anyone else have experiences to share about dealing with older kids and teens? Would love to see a post on that!

        • My mom relaxed quite a bit on what she let us eat, even what we could have in the house, once my brother and I were both in elementary school. On one hand, we DID eat some junky things, like ramen noodles and American cheese, on a regular basis for a while. On the other hand, it felt like instinct to include a fruit or veg in every meal, and both of us tended to put ourselves in “detox mode” after a party, choosing super-healthy foods and drinking lots of water for a while to recover! Both of us returned to much healthier diets after college without any nudging from Mom. It seems that her efforts to establish healthy habits when we were young paid off in the long run.

          I was a Girl Scout leader for 6 years. We talked about nutrition for our supermarket field trip and when planning meals for camping trips. I was amazed at how ideas like, “Real maple syrup tastes better than Log Cabin because it’s not too sweet.” spread among the girls; often it was one of them, not me, who said it first. For many of them, being shown just one example of how we can compare foods using Nutrition Facts labels was enough to get them checking those labels for years and talking/thinking about sugar, sodium, etc. They still liked to eat junk *sometimes*, but at least they were aware that it was junk.

  9. Corrin says:

    I’m still learning these things. I grew up in a household where my mother cooked and we all ate together, but vegetables were not a big part of our meal, and if they were, they were canned. My mom did the best she could with the budget were were on, but there’s so much education now that I don’t think she’d feed us the same things if she had to do it again.

  10. Ticia says:

    I loved those first two points:
    colors from nature
    takes time to prepare!

  11. Jennifer Sturm says:

    Great post! I talk to my kids all the time about food. They get it, more than adults do sometimes :) We don't give our kids enough credit. We also let our kids make their own decisions on food choices. It is a great learning experience for them to feel the effects of fake food. Love your message and blog. I along with my friend Karina Micomonaco Stuke have our own business called Eat Play Live. Check us out, we have a lot in common :)

  12. Your daughter is a adorable. I completely agree that what they eat should in the end be their choice. We don’t want a power struggle over food. And I think all efforts to get kids to eat whole foods should be applauded and you are most definitely doing that.

    I have a blogging friend who has a food blog that might interest you too. http://www.yourkidstable.com/

  13. Amy says:

    Yes, thank you for this, I love it! So simple, funny and positive! I am new to this blog but I just want to hug you! Haha! :)

  14. Amy says:

    And actually… just to be more effusive… I feel like this should be made into a board book! All the crunchy parents would go wild! I may even do just that with an old board book I don’t care for… 8-)

  15. heidi says:

    Nice article! I am a mom of four kids 7 and under. I am diabetic and have thyroid disease, and I battle with food daily. My kids for years know about”Anytime foods”(whole foods, fruit, veggies,organic non processed meats, cheese , yogurt. and “sometimes foods” nothing is forbidden. We never consume fake sugars. Recently about 7 months ago changed to organic, non gmo foods, we are now pursuing a gluten free diet. My kids don’t buy school snacks or lunched(due to their version of healthy lunch being full of additives, and preservatives. We are doing the best we can to eat whole foods. But again EVERYTHING in moderation:)

  16. Great post! We’re in the middle of overhauling our diet now, which wasn’t bad to begin with, but getting rid of sugar, animal products raised conventionslly, etc. We drink a lot of green smoothies every day, which is really convenient for us, but I do love fresh vegetables I cook myself with real ingredients vs store bought marinades. It’s my hope my 3 yo boy will grow up loving this kind of food.

  17. Evin says:

    We take a “everything in moderation” approach. My son is 8 and old enough to know that McDonalds tastes pretty good (to him anyway.. yuck.) But he also knows it’s not “real” food. I am not a hypocrite and I love vodka and Starbucks (sometimes at the same time!) but only in moderation. I consider McDonalds to be vodka for kids. Once in a while isn’t going to hurt, but if you make it a lifestyle choice, things will end badly. So he knows that most of the time, we’re going to eat good, healthy, colorful food that MOmmy cooks (and he gets to help!) and that once in a while… just for fun… we’re going to eat crap. And that’s okay.

  18. [...] How I Taught My Daughter About Real Food from Homemade Mommy [...]

  19. Rachel Ramey says:

    Why is it “harsh” to tell our kids the truth? (As someone said about calling sugar “toxic” – it IS.) Our kids know that some things help our bodies grow strong and healthy and other things aren’t very good for our bodies. We also teach them that our bodies can handle some of the not-so-good stuff every once in a while, if MOST of what they eat is keeping them strong and well-nourished. (Except the stuff that’s just plain chemicals – like aspartame. *cringe* Bodies just don’t know what to do with that at all!)

    And we do enough things counter-culturally in our home that not criticizing OTHER peoples’ choices is something they hear plenty about, food-related and otherwise.

  20. This is a really interesting post, with some great tips on talking to kids about healthy food choices. It’s also wonderful that you give your daughter a choice, and it’s a sign of how well you have taught her that she makes the healthy ones!

  21. Little Sis says:

    Hey there. Great thoughts here. My twins have been raised eating real foods and while they are still occasionally tempted by the fake foods that surround them, when they do encounter a lot these things (birthday parties are what comes to mind), they don’t gorge on them as I see so many kids do. They enjoy them some, but find most of them too sweet and turn away from the food sooner than most kids. Regardless of the particular slant we take on introducing them to and feeding them real foods, there is no question that it better prepares them for a lifetime of healthful choices.

  22. [...] How I Taught My Daughter About Real Food from Homemade Mommy. Great talking points for kids! Great post! [...]

  23. Amanda says:

    It is so important to teach kids about real food! My daughter is 2 and she is already helping me in the garden and choose and prepare dinner (within reason). I am afraid of when she goes to school though. She has gluten issues and she does wish she could eat what her little friends eat at play grouup. Either she will eat the bad food or she will refer to it as “Toxic junk” So the adventure of school will be interesting one way or another.

    Thanks for sharing on Natural Living Monday! I am excited to see what you have to share this week.

  24. [...] my daughter will get cancer or whether she will be able to have children. In a recent post about how I talk to me daughter about food, I told you all that I give her a choice. She needs to be empowered about her own body. She will [...]

  25. [...] How I taught my daughter about real food [...]

  26. Star Traci says:

    It’s great that you talk with her about your food priorities. I think you’re right that kids can comprehend a lot. I have to say that while we are incorporating more whole foods and home cooking into lives, we are not fully homemade. We do eat out occasionally and we do have boxes in our pantry. This is partly due to budget and partly due to time. I am trying, however, to balance and make the best choices possible. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    :-)
    Traci

  27. Sarah says:

    This was a good read. Thanks for sharing. Your daughter is lucky to have a mommy like you :-)

  28. Cyndel Jones says:

    Awesome!
    We’ve eaten a LOT of processed food in the past, and still do, I’m trying to move towards ‘real food’ but as we are struggling so hard with money and I’m temporarily living under my parents roof they have primary say in what we buy. So while they believe in healthier choices, they don’t always agree with ‘real food’ being better then some of the ‘diet’ foods out there. It has been tough.

    • Oh, I feel your pain! My husband was like that. He had a hard time when I was trying to bring us back to ‘real food.’ I don’t know if it would help with your folks, but what I did was tell him that I would cook whatever he wanted, but he wasn’t to buy the prepackaged versions. He had to let me make it from scratch. It worked fairly well. He eventually stopped asking for anything in particular and just was happy with whatever I cooked.

  29. [...] also loved reading on various ways for raising healthy kids and teaching them the value of real food.  You should definitely check out this parent’s [...]

  30. Good article but if you want to start really feeling healthy, stop eating flesh. Try it for 3 months – bet you feel even better. And I don’t mean iceberg lettuce salads – some vegan’s have horrible diets too.

  31. [...] Food talking points for your kids. I promise, these ongoing conversations are a whole lot easier when done from the beginning and [...]

  32. Cheryl says:

    I was turned off by “Respect animals and only eat them if they are raised on farms like in your favorite books”, what about hunting? My girls(5 and 2) are huge animal lovers but understand what hunting it is. Its also healthier meat then you will find on any farm since the animal chooses their natural diet.

  33. Meagan says:

    We’ve been pretty clear with our son from the get go about eating real food. We were pretty strict from about age 0-2 1/2 on foods that he could eat. He knows that he needs to ask us before accepting food from anyone (including his friends or relatives). Now that he’s a little older, we use our discretion on when to say yes or no to a particular food, with the hopes that there won’t be a “food rebellion” in the future ;) Also, if he’s wanting a particular snack that all of his friends have, I often offer to make him the treat myself. We’ll differentiate between their snacks that won’t make his body feel good and my treats that are okay to eat once in a while. This seems to work. I also don’t feel like he is deprived since I’m able to make homemade versions of most of the things that his friends eat (ice cream, cookies, crackers, pizza, etc) using WAPF guidelines. Oh, and we often talk about how when he is older he can choose to eat this or that food if he wants to, but for now he needs to listen to mommy and daddy. Hopefully, we’ve set a good foundation now for that future :)

  34. Karla says:

    I had to laugh. I was scanning your post when I saw the one about “bread makes our tummies hurt if we eat too much of it”. I had some really good homemade bread last night and I ended up living that comment. I guess at least I can laugh about it today. :)

  35. Amanda says:

    We talk about “sick food” and the way it affects our bodies. When there is a party or we are somewhere that “sick foods” are tempting us they have the choice whether or not to eat them. We never shame them for eating sick food but we do talk often about the ingredients that make it unhealthy for us and how it works inside our bodies to break down our defenses and eventually make us sick. They understand how they will feel later if they eat sick food now and it is up to them to make that decision. If they choose that they would rather suffer the consequences of the bad food that is fine. We tell them “it is much harder to build a body back up once it has been broken down than it is to make healthy choices along the way.” We mostly get our healthy food from local farmers so the kids have a good understanding of where our food actually comes from.

    • Amanda says:

      I also make it a point to notice when their mood or behavior has been altered by food (and they have begun pointing this out to me occasionally as well!). If they are acting hyper or agitated I may say something like, “You seem like you are in a grumpy mood this afternoon. I think it may be because you chose to have that cupcake a lunch today. This is how it feels when sick food is affecting your body. Maybe we should have some extra (insert healthy food here: cod liver oil, chicken broth, liver pate, ect.) to help your body recover.” This way they lean to associate sick food with its affects later and can better understand the consequences of their choices.

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