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Tips For Getting Your Kids To Embrace Whole Foods

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If getting your kiddos to eat their fruits and veggies makes wrestling a wild hog to the ground look easy by comparison, trust me, you are not alone!  I have learned many things since I ventured into the great unknown called parenthood, but nothing more than food, nutrition and society’s inherent and deep connection to all things edible.  I am not a doctor, a nutritionist or even a die hard for any specific dietary plan, other than to avoid the foods that I know are causing my family ill health (which is a rather lengthy list at the moment).  Nope, I’m just a regular gal who grew up in the heart of the Midwest, eating the Standard American Diet, just like everyone else I knew.

In a way, that last statement goes to the heart of it: “just like everyone else I knew.”  When your doctor finally tells you that your and/or your kids need to embrace a gluten-free diet, you are no longer like “everyone else you know.”  In fact, you are not even yourself anymore.  All of the food related memories from your childhood that you anticipated sharing with your children feel like they are now gone.  All of the easy and convenient “comfort” foods like KFC or Hamburger Helper feel like they are now gone.  Chasing the ice cream man down the street and buying whatever you want feels like it’s now gone.

It can be completely overwhelming at first, and for me it was very much a mourning process.

I’ve made many mistakes over the course of my life (who hasn’t?), but I always found a way to justify them to myself.  When I was diagnosed with celiac disease 6 years ago, I found a way to make new mistakes and create new justifications.  The gluten-free lifestyle is inconvenient.  It’s expensive.  It tastes bad (gluten-free alternatives in 2005 were basically the equivalent of flavored cardboard, very different than what is available today).  I cheated, rationalized, excused,  pardoned, subjected myself to convenient guilt (how can I deprive my kids of Happy Meals and goldfish crackers?), pretty much anything I could think of to get out of it.

I was just doing more damage to myself.  My kids, however, are another story.

When my oldest son was diagnosed with celiac disease in late 2008, the Mama Bear in me went into overdrive.  I was no longer trying to preserve those food memories for my kids, I was trying to PROTECT them from those food memories!  I felt like I was doing a good job of encouraging my kids (well, my oldest anyway…my youngest was still a baby) to explore unique foods and try everything.  I kid you not, my oldest ate raw onions like popcorn for a year and to this day still loves Brussels Sprouts.  My youngest, however, is a different story, if it didn’t begin with choco and end with late, he didn’t want it…but stay tuned, I have some tips!

The modern American lifestyle almost demands that we are able to take advantage of the modern American convenience known as fast/processed food.  I will freely admit that we were once on that path too.  I think on some level every parent (especially moms) promises themselves that they will begin to make better food choices for their family, starting tomorrow.  But tomorrow comes and we have a rough day with our toddler, the house is a mess, Little League game at 6:30, school project due the next day, and the dog just puked on the carpet!  Oh how easily a 45 second phone call for pizza delivery solves the added “inconvenience” of preparing dinner.

That particular option is gone.  But that doesn’t mean that everything you’ve been told about this lifestyle is true.  Yes, it can be hard, it can be expensive, and it can be unhealthy.  OR it can be relatively inexpensive, simple, extremely delicious and uber nutritious, which is why I am excited to be participating in 30 Days to Easy Gluten-Free Living, a fantastic blog event created by my friend and real food activist, Diane Eblin of The W.H.O.L.E. Gang.  Diane had the idea to do this blog carnival when she, like so many of us, got fed up with all the media accounts that tout the gluten-free lifestyle as being nothing but expensive, difficult, unhealthy and void of flavor, and nothing could be further from the truth, it just depends on how you go about it, the decision is yours to make! 😀

I am an “accidental” whole food advocate.  This was not a deliberate decision on my part, but the result of a long and difficult path.  Whether you have made this decision on purpose, or find yourself thrust into this lifestyle because it is necessary to protect you and your family, it makes no difference.  You are here now, need some help, and need it to feel real.  I hear you.  I know.

It’s been a long, hard three years for me and my family.  Minor and major victories, minor and major setbacks.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails big.  It’s part of the deal.  I’ve learned a couple of things that work for my family, so I think they may work for yours as well.  My tips are really intended as short cuts and hopefully a little inspiration, because it’s worth it to get your family on a healthy path, and trust me when I tell you that if I can do it, you can too!

Tip #1: Knowledge.

Take the time to not only know where your food is coming from, but to know what exactly is in your food.  This has been one of the biggest motivating factors for me to change the way my family eats  For an EXCELLENT book, I highly recommend getting a copy of The Unhealthy Truth: One Mother’s Shocking Investigation into the Dangers of America’s Food Supply– and What Every Family Can Do to Protect Itself by Robyn O’Brien and Rachel Kranz (seriously, get this book).  I can’t stress this enough, learn all about what can be legally labeled “food” and what the human body recognizes as “food.”  That alone should motivate you to take some action.

Tip #2: Preparation.

One trick I discovered that works wonders is to buy a mini-fridge for your kids and stock it full of healthy snacks.  I did this a couple of years ago when I got tired of my boys asking me for something to eat every 5 minutes.  I bought a mini fridge at Costco for about $135.00, brought it home and placed it in the playroom…a mini veggie bar, if you will!  Inside, I placed sandwich baggies full of grapes, berries, apple slices, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, carrot sticks, etc., plus containers of hummus, dill dip and almond butter for dipping.  I also stocked the fridge with containers of nuts and seeds, deli meat rollups, yogurt, cheese cubes, bottled water, plain milk (we are now dairy-free, so some things are no longer in our fridge {cheese} or we use dairy-free substitutes).

The key is to be prepared, and then you get to make the very subtle but incredibly smooth transition when one of your little ones approaches you with hunger pains: you tell them that they can have anything in the mini-fridge that they want.  Anytime.  No questions asked. {Incidentally, if you don’t want to spring on a mini-fridge you can designate one of your crisper drawers to the same purpose}.

It could be five minutes before dinner, doesn’t matter.  Would you trade a dinner fight over the broccoli on their plate for a baggie full of carrots eaten five minutes prior?  Of course you would.  Harmony and nutrition at the same time!  But the rule is, if they grab it from the fridge, they eat it (that’s the fight worth having).  But if the fridge is empty, you are stuck…so you have to BE PREPARED (geez, I sound like a Boy Scout!).

Variety in the mini-fridge is good at first, but you are going to have to be observant and take inventory each night (it’s a new daily chore, sorry…I know you don’t need another one).  Be aware of what they are eating the most of (remember, it’s all healthy stuff so it doesn’t matter).  Tilt your fridge stocking toward what is disappearing fastest for a couple of days and see what happens.  Either they will eat all of a certain thing or it will suddenly start to become moldy and untouched.  They go through phases.  My kids absolutely begged me for apples with almond butter for the better part of two weeks, then just when I stocked up on almond butter, they shifted to grapes and haven’t touched the almond butter in a month.  Of course, the day after I toss the almond butter, they will ask me for it.  It’s just part of the terrain, so stay nimble!

This is also a great time to join your local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.  We did this last year and for a mere $26 a week, a lovely box of local produce showed up on our doorstep every week.  My children quickly began to look forward to their weekly “veggie presents” and I found myself experimenting with vegetables that I simply would have passed at the market, this is how I fell in love with beets!

Tip #3: Patience

Be prepared for the first week or so to be absolutely miserable (depending on where you are on this journey)…sorry, no way to avoid it.

Once you decide that you want to improve your family’s diet, I wouldn’t recommend making a big announcement that “things are going to change around here,” you will just be asking for trouble. You buy the groceries, you prepare the food…just start doing it differently.  I can almost guarantee that your kids will not eat for at least two days, possibly four (or so it was with my obstinate 3 year old).  You will become convinced that you are a bad parent.  You will try every trick you know to get them to eat even one bite of Brussels sprouts/broccoli/tomato/{insert dreaded vegetable here}.

The only trick that works is hunger, so be patient (mom tip: hide in the closet with a glass of wine and allow your husband to deal with the nuclear fallout; he’ll most likely be happy to, especially if you give him a wink and hold up the glass of wine, LOL!).  Your kids are growing, their bodies will eventually send a signal to their brain that tells them to eat, and they will pick through the least offensive parts of their meal.

They will not starve, but they will try to make you feel guilty (go ahead, have a second glass of wine, mother guilt is a $&@!*).

Tip #4: Give Your Kids Control.

After a few days of misery, and just when your patience is about to run out, try something radical: give your kids control.  That’s right, you give control back to them.  They love to make choices, as we all know, and they love to feel in control of their own lives (if only they knew that we are Jedi Masters!).  One way to combine staying nimble with giving your kids control is to let them choose the foods that go into the mini-fridge.  Two great ways to accomplish this are to take them to a farmers’ market (mostly healthy stuff there) or help them plant a small garden plot in your yard or on your patio.  I know it sounds strange, but they will actually start waiting for the day their radishes are ready to harvest the same way they fidget for Christmas to arrive!

They make the choices, but you control the options.  If they want grapes instead of apples, so be it.  Carrots instead of cucumbers, no problem.

Tip #5: Don’t preach.

Trying to explain things to them really doesn’t work, at least it didn’t for me.  You can certainly discuss the benefits of healthy food IN GENERAL, but if you try to zero in on why YOUR KIDS should eat healthy (as opposed to their peers who are shoveling ungodly amounts of garbage into their mouths) it won’t work.

And please please please trust me when I tell you not to compare your kids to that “other kid.”  You know the “other kid” to which I refer.  The “other kid” who is part of your playgroup (or online community), the one who at the age of 3 is already making healthy food choices.  The “other kid” who shuns sugar, prefers kale, and can smell the artery-clogging poison of fried food from a mile away.

Let me tell you something, that “other kid” doesn’t exist.  My boys would pop Skittles until their brains were fried and slurp down Otter Pops until their tongues were permanently stained blue if I would let them.  And so would every kid.  Everywhere.  All the time.

My kids eat healthy food because healthy food is all we have in our home.  Bottom line, that’s the main trick.  Just get the bad food out of your home, understand what’s coming, prepare as best you can, and let Mother Nature take over.

What are your tips for getting kids to eat their fruits and veggies?


30 Days of Easy Gluten-Free Living

May 2:  Diane from The WHOLE Gang—Easy Gluten Free Grocery Shopping Tips

May 3:  Iris from The Daily Dietribe—How to Start a Gluten Free Diet

May 4: Heather from Gluten-Free Cat—Smoothing the GF Transition with Smoothies

May 5: Alta from Tasty Eats at Home—Make Your Own Convenience Foods

May 6: Elana from Elana’s Pantry—Quick and Easy Gluten Free Cherry Vanilla Power Bars

May 7: Cheryl from Gluten Free Goodness—Easy Meals GF Style

May 8: Megan from Food Sensitivity Journal—Gluten Free Baking Undone: Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

May 9: Amy from Simply Sugar and Gluten Free—Magic Cookie Power Bars

May 10: Ricki from Diet, Dessert and Dogs—Gluten Free Baking Tips

May 11: Ellen from Gluten-Free Diva—Gluten Free Travel Tips

May 12: Kim from Cook It Allergy Free sharing Eating—Your Garden for Easy Gluten-Free Living

May 13: Melissa from Gluten Free For Good—Gluten-Free Food Rules (recipes included)

May 14: Brittany from Real Sustenance—Healthy Allergy-Free Quick Bread with easy flavor variations

May 15: Nicola from g-free Mom—Kids Lunch Boxes

May 16: Wendy from Celiacs in the House—Fast Food for Gluten Free Teens

May 17: Shirley from gluten free easily—Your Pantry is the Key to Living gfe

May 18: Nancy from the Sensitive Pantry—BBQ and Picnic Tips and Recipes

May 19: Heidi from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom—Tips for getting kids to eat healthy, real-food snacks!

May 20: Silvana from Silvana’s Kitchen—Everything I’ve Learned So Far about Gluten-Free (plus a recipe!)

May 21: Maggie from She Let Them Eat Cake—Easy Gluten-Free Living With Preschoolers and a Vanilla Cupcake recipe!

May 22: Sea from Book of Yum—Gluten Free Vegetarian Burritos

May 23: Tia from Glugle Gluten-Free

May 24: Alisa from Alisa Cooks and Go Dairy Free—Wrap it Up-Thinking Outside the Bun

May 25: Hallie from Daily Bites—Keys to Colorful Cooking

May 26: Carol from Simply…Gluten-Free

May 27: AndreaAnna from Life as a Plate—Tips on Traveling on Day Trips with Kids

May 28: Zoe from Z’s Cup of Tea

May 29: Kelly from The Spunky Coconut

May 30: Jess from ATX Gluten-Free-1 Meal 3 Ways, Jazzing up Leftovers

May 31: Naomi from Straight into Bed, Cakefree and Dried








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  1. Fantastic post Heidi. So honest and so helpful! You're bang on baby. Congrats on everything you've done to get your family here. I especially love the mini fridge tip! So much fun for them. My kids would love that. xo

    • Thanks Maggie! I hope that it didn't come off sounding too "rough," I wrote the article with my former self in mind…I do well with tough love, as long as it's not mean. 😀


  2. Excellent tips! I will be doing a snack drawer next week. My daughter's last day of school is Tuesday, so this will be a perfect addition to our summer. Thanks for the great ideas!

  3. Can you adopt me as your kid? Oh my gosh, you are an amazing mom! What wonderful ideas. I love the preparation tip. We don't have a mini-fridge, but I do find that stocking the fridge with prewashed and cut fruits and veggies at EYE level helps the husband and I both grab something nutritious to snack on. Great post!!!

    • Of course I will adopt you Heather, LOL! 😀

      I prep twice a week and my guys are getting much better at helping me with it (so it goes even faster). I found that having the fresh produce already cleaned, cut and portioned really helped to increase the amount of fruits and veggies we consumed (this was long before we had to be on a 100% whole foods diet due to having several gluten cross-reactive foods)…which had a very positive impact on my weight (I've lost 90 lbs.). Also, having it already made up, makes packing lunches a cinch!

  4. These are awesome tips!! My oldest is the same way – she'll eat asparagus and hummus like it's going out of style. My youngest? Cheese. Rice Cakes. Peanut Butter. Yogurt. And that's pretty much it.

    The thing that has worked for us and I hope will continue to work is involving the kids with t he shopping. Letting them pick out new things to try and having it be okay if they don't like something. Forcing kids to clear their plates or take bits of things they don't like only backfires in my opinion, especially when you're raising GI kids who already have limited options.

    • What is it with the youngest children? LOL!

      I absolutely 110% agree with you on not forcing kids to clean their plates, especially if they don't like something. My rule for my kids (most of the time, I do make the occasional exception) is that they have to have one bite for every year of their age, Sam, 7 bites and Luke, 3 bites. It usually works very well, because they feel like they're getting a "deal" by not having to eat all of something…although Sam is beginning to realize that 7 bites is nearly the whole portion, LOL!

  5. I agree with Heather. I need you to come over here and stock my fridge. I would definitely eat better. Guess I should do it for me as well as Max. BTW, I have that weird kid that doesn't exist, but I think that is because he has never had the opportunity to eat the junk. We just don't do it. His only sweet treat is 88% dark chocolate. So, he doesn't like the milk chocolate.

    These are great tips and ideas. You have gone through a lot of trial and error for all of us. Thanks!

    • I worried that that statement would seem over the top, but I wrote it because I remember when I first began to read blogs and would come across the posts where the mom said her children loved dark, leafy greens and preferred them to traditional "kid foods." Those articles always made me feel like a horrible mother and that there was something "wrong" with my kids for not enthusiastically liking broccoli. I ultimately figured out why I had such a problem…because if there was a sweeter/saltier option around, they were going to hold their breath until they turned blue (or I caved and gave them what they wanted because I didn't want them to go hungry). When there are no other options available, kids will eat those foods and over time…they will begin to prefer fruits and veggies over the junk food. Last week, Luke opted for some berries over a bowl of ice cream…I almost fainted, LOL!

      • Definitely NOT over the top. It's totally true. If they have no alternative, they will like the good stuff. Just like adults. 😉 But, I know once Max is a teenager (or younger) and he is around all of that junk, it will be bye-bye veggies. But the good thing is if you get them to get a taste for the veggies young, they go back to it. Happened to Sam and his brother. They ate horrible in their teens, but went back to the good stuff as adults.

        BTW, I love how you write. You write what we all are thinking. If you were here, I would give you a big kiss on the cheek.

  6. These are great tips, Heidi! And I love "if it didn't start with choco and end with lite, he didn't want it"–LOL!! I also came to love beets when I changed my diet. . .so many delicious foods out there to try, and so many of us never do. Hopefully this will change things for many families. 🙂

  7. Heidi, I LOVE these tips! So so right on! And, the idea about stocking a mini-fridge is just brilliant! I cannot believe that has never crossed my mind. I am so totally going to do that this summer so that I do not go crazy with my kiddos constantly telling me they are hungry! You did an awesome job with this one. You are so right about all of these….and not preaching is an awesome one!! Letting the kids make decisions and be a bit in control is a wonderful tip. It makes them feel as if they have a big role in this, instead of just always being told what to do!!



  8. This probably would have helped my parents when we found out that everyone in my family had all these allergies. Fortunately, most of us liked veggies, but we were incredibly hesitant to give up "normal" bread and baking, dairy and eggs!

  9. Heidi, you are amazing. This is a fantastic post. We've slowly transitioned our home to have less and less junk food, but it's at the same time our kids want more and more of it. (kinda a difficult battle when they're teens and at home, they get to eat a lot of boxed whatever and very little fruit and veggies) And often, they'll fill up on junk Friday after school, come over to our house, only eat enough of what they DO like to get by, so they can go back home and fill up on more junk. Grr. We do have a snack area where they can eat certain designated snacks anytime – same with the fruit bowl. But unfortunately, I feel the same pain as you described – one day they can't get enough of something, so I buy more, and then it sits and sits cause they don't want it. LOL And boy, do I need to quiet down my preaching…I have a tendency to open my mouth, hoping to shove as much food knowledge down them as possible in the 5-6 days a month they're with us. (guilty smile) See why you're my hero?

  10. Powerful post, Heidi! I love your honesty and the tips that resulted from you doing the hard work for us. 🙂 You're a gift to us all. Seriously! I read your tip some time ago about the mini-fridge, but now I think I need to do it for myself here at work. Other people have fridges in their office … why not me? I really don't like my food being in the fridge with everyone else's. I know the risk would be low since my items are "contained," but still … who knows if anyone uses my butter or salad dressing? And I could just load up my little fridge every week with my snacks and lunches. 😉 Giving the kids control, letting them be a part of the process, etc. are all common sense things, but so few parents do them. If there's going to be any type of daily power struggle, it really shouldn't be about food. You're a great mom, Heidi! Thanks for this post … it's a great addition to the 30 Days event! 🙂



  11. Preparedness and patience are key! What a great article!

  12. Great article! This is going into my parenting book (a book my husband and I started, filled w/ all the things we want to remember when we become parents!).

  13. Great tips, Heidi-girl! Love the mini-fridge idea stocked with healthy foods. It's so important to give kids choices, but as the mom, you get to provide the options to begin with. It's really not that hard when you walk-the-walk yourself. Being a good role model is what is important and knowledge is key. Oh, and being prepared! Tip #2 is SO important. You're absolutely right-on with this list!

    Peace, love and patience!


  14. Heidi, what awesome tips! I especially like the idea of the mini fridge with healthy snacks for the kids – makes it fun and easy for them to enjoy healthy whole foods! Interesting how having to change a diet based on allergies naturally leads one back to the way things were meant…a whole foods diet.

  15. Laptop Lunches says

    Thank you for this great site and wonderful tips! We plan to recommend your tips to our Facebook fans on Sunday. You can check it out at:

  16. What a great post. This is wonderful for my clients and I've shared this with so many of them. Heidi, I love your gluten-free blog and so happy to have found it. Keep up the amazing work; really enjoying your delicious recipes and hope to connect with you soon.

    Enjoy your weekend!

  17. Heidi, I absolutely love this post! I think everything you wrote is spot on! Of course I don't have kids (yet), but I did grow up in a family day care…and like you, healthy food was all my parents had, so that's what we ate.

    • Thanks Iris!!

      I continue to be amazed at how well my kids are adapting (but they're young still, only 7 and 3 and they're not quite set in their ways, like I was, LOL!). It's certainly difficult in the beginning, but it gets easier and easier the longer you're away from the highly processed foods that are laden with sodium, sugar, bad fat foods and chemical flavors/preservatives…it's like your taste buds end up thanking you with the gift of enjoying real foods once you quit abusing them with all the chemicals…seriously! 😀

  18. Love love love this post!!!!!!!!!! We have just learned about many many new allergies and are starting a rotation diet. I have already seen the miracles of my children 'starving'!!! My pickiest, although both are really, eagerly tried artichoke last night, gobbled pear and banana(both of which she has refused forever!!!!!!!!

    We are just starting, well, need to start over because both girls got sick. We have a long way to go……….I know they won't starve, but I still worry about it. Love the tips!!! Thank you Heidi! Not sure how I would do it without you!

  19. This is right on! I've been meaning to write a post like this, but darn it, you've basically covered it! We have overcome some major picky eating with this sort of strategy. Here's the story of our daughter and her transition to the GAPS diet:

    I've noticed that the kids' satisfaction with their diet waxes and wanes. Here we are, more than a year into our changes, and suddenly my son is really grieving. But no matter how sad he sometimes is, he *knows* why he is doing it. Without that, we'd be out of luck. Here is a radio segment he recently did, explaining about celiac disease and cross-contamination:


  1. […] Heidi of Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom shared Tips for Getting Kids to Embrace Whole Foods […]

  2. […] Thursday May 19th    Heidi from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom sharing Tips for Getting Kids to Embrace Whole Foods […]

  3. […] Thursday May 19th    Heidi from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom sharing Tips for Getting Kids to Embrace Whole Foods […]

  4. […] Thursday May 19th    Heidi from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom sharing Tips for Getting Kids to Embrace Whole Foods […]

  5. […] Thursday May 19th    Heidi from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom sharing Tips for Getting Kids to Embrace Whole Foods […]

  6. […] Thursday May 19th    Heidi from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom sharing Tips for Getting Kids to Embrace Whole Foods […]

  7. […] Taste buds are truly fascinating, they may long for similar tasting foods when you are first gluten free…but they do adapt!  Not only will your taste buds soon “forget” the foods you used to eat (if only your brain would hurry up and do the same, huh?), but the more you change your diet, the more your taste buds will reject the heavily processed foods you used to eat (trust me on this).  I will also beg you (if you have small children), to not start feeding your children all the “classic” kiddie foods: Goldfish crackers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, french fries, sugar-laden cereals, etc.  You, as the parent, have the power to influence your child’s taste preferences…for life.  If you feed them sweet, salty, and high-fat foods, that is what they will want.  Period.  And before you know it, they will grow into one of the unhealthy adults that has sadly become the norm in America today.  I know I want better for my kids and I know you do too, but it isn’t easy in today’s world with junk food everywhere you turn.  This is a war we’re in, filled with hundreds of little battles every single day…and education is our most powerful weapon.  For my tips on how to get your older kids to embrace whole foods, click here). […]

  8. […] can get them eating all sorts of healthy goodness.  I talk about this more extensively in my post, Tips for Getting Your Kids to Embrace Whole Foods…seriously, go check it out, all my tips are “Sam and Luke […]

  9. […] Food Kids HealthyMe, You might want to check this website out, "TIPS FOR GETTING YOUR KIDS TO EMBRACE WHOLE FOODS" Also, Whole Foods for Kids to […]

  10. […] Thursday May 19th    Heidi from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom sharing Tips for Getting Kids to Embrace Whole Foods […]

  11. […] Thursday May 19th    Heidi from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom sharing Tips for Getting Kids to Embrace Whole Foods […]