A friend asked, how did I raise my kids to love healthy food? Luke & Hana are 27 and 23 now; both eat clean, fresh food and one is a vegan chef, so something must have worked!

Simplicity was key. To foster the habit of eating healthy, and loving fresh food, I only bought healthy food: no candy, junk, or even dairy, wheat or sugar. (No ear infections ever!) I didn’t want to shout, “No!” when my kids reached for a snack; everything in the pantry was a “yes!”  Thanks to stores such as Costco’s & Trader Joe’s, it’s possible to buy healthy food on a budget. You don’t have to break the bank! Another place to save: thefarmersmarket. My kids adored our weekly trips, seeing the fruits and veggies displayed, meeting the growers, choosing what they wanted to eat. Hana’s special treat was a honey stick.

In every food category we found delicious, healthy alternatives to processed food. The cabinets were stocked with organic corn chips, guacamole & hearty hummus for snacks, baked french fries, yams and cauliflower rice accompanied broiled tofu or baked chicken at dinner. And, yes, because kids love pasta, there were mountains of gluten-free noddles with butter, ghee or bottled sauce. No one was deprived.

At 8, Luke discovered that, “Mom, carob is not chocolate! Chocolate is chocolate!” (Who else told their kids carob was, indeed chocolate?! ) We baked often, but mixes that are gluten or sugar-free are now readily available. You don’t have to start from scratch!

The big savior was PROTEIN. I learned that if they always had protein in some form for breakfast, and then a protein bar or protein smoothie with their snack, they wouldn’t crave or even ask for junk food. They may have “wishes” for things they saw in the store, but they did’t have crazy cravings. That is why I’m all about protein powder, and created two of my own, because even the crankiest child will gulp down a smoothie. Screaming kids & moody teens are usually either tired or having a blood sugar crash, and a protein smoothie fixes one of those!

Seeing that the children of well-meaning friends who never let their child sample a piece of candy sometimes developed food-based issues from over-policing, I chose to let mine have a few conventional treats on holidays, and as they got older, at friend’s birthday parties and school events. I didn’t want them to feel certain foods were so “off limits” that they would binge on them as soon as they could make their own choices. And, they never did. They loved big salads, fruit and sweet potatoes, and in his teens, Luke fell in love with cooking.

If you keep it clean at home, that’s 85-90% of the food your family eats. Unless a child has food allergies or a serious illness, that’s enough to nourish and build a healthy mind & body.

It takes time & energy to create healthy meals, so, to all you hard-working moms and dads out there, here’s a big gold star and a deep bow for your conscious effort. It pays off, I promise!

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