Renegade Health Radio: Raising Healthy Children

Monday Oct 27 | BY |
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In this episode, we discuss Raising Healthy Children:

  • Hear Kevin and Frederic’s personal experiences with being raised and understand how this affects everybody’s health experiences and beliefs even through today. 3:33
  • Why kids who may seem like “fussy eaters” may actually not be hungry. Chances are you don’t need to worry about them starving! 9:36
  • How being so militant with every single bite of food that your child eats may actually be doing them more harm than good. 10:41
  • Understand how important it is for children to go through their own experiences and come to their own conclusions in terms of what they want to eat. You as a parent do play a critical role in what you provide for your children to eat, though! 12:30
  • Why kids may not be incredibly attracted to eating greens and certain types of vegetables, and why calories are so critical for them. 13:39
  • Why a 100% raw food diet may not be healthy for children and why it needs to be adjusted for specific individual cases. 16:00
  • Why getting your kids involved with making the food that they actually eat can help them get excited about eating healthy foods and ultimately become more knowledgeable about health and food in general. 17:42
  • Some great foods you can easily prepare for your growing children that are healthy and delicious. 20:27
  • Why eating more simply and in less complex combinations, like the way that most children tend to, may actually be healthier for you. 23:08



Kevin: Renegade Health Radio. This is Kevin Gianni with Frederic Patenaude. Fred, we have an interesting topic today. What are we going to talk about?

Fred: We’re going to talk about kids.

Kevin: We’re going to talk about kids.

Fred: Well we got question from a podcast listener: “Can you talk about how to get kids on board with healthy lifestyles? How to get kids encouraged and excited starting young, regarding health issues? How to fire them up about staying healthy? Also tips on how to navigate the choppy waters of family members within a home who are not on board with healthful eating.”

So that’s a question we got.

Kevin: Let’s fire these kids up. Let’s do it. Let’s fire them up with health food.

Fred: Were you fired up with health foods? Because I remember my kind of health awakening came around the age of 17 and 18, which is pretty early, I think. But before that was like large quantities of popsicles and chips, dill-flavored chips, and I mean, a lot of crap and a lot of healthy stuff, too, but mostly crap, like everybody.

So I kind of had the experience of my mom wanting to make those changes as I was a teenager. And initially, I didn’t react so positively, but it wasn’t like the big, you know, like teenager anger and refusing to eat those new foods, right, that she was trying to make us eat. Because I got curious about it, that’s kind of how this whole process started. I just wanted to know more about it before I could decide. So when I start reading on the topic, then I became even more militant than she was by becoming a vegetarian at that time.

So that was kind of my story, but I’ve seen a lot of families unsuccessfully attempt radical diet changes, especially when the kids are younger, and then I’ve seen people being raised on a very healthy diet, or even a raw food diet or a vegan diet, and then later in life decide that they’re not going to follow this way of eating anymore. All kinds of things have happened. I don’t have kids, but I may, it may happen one day, so I’ve been thinking about it.

What do you think, Kevin? What has been your experience, not only with your family, but with people that you’ve seen?

Kevin: Well my family was fairly healthy. I mean, we didn’t have…like I remember one day when we had met some new friends when we moved into the house in Brookfield that we were living in. And I remember going to a friend’s house and they were having hotdogs for dinner, and I thought that was the coolest thing. Like we never had hot dogs for dinner, you know. It was just, we would have a piece of protein, we would have some greens, we would have a starch, and that was pretty much, you know, what it all looked like.

We had lots of pastas. My mom is kind of this American Italian, so we had lots of pasta, chicken parm, nothing really in a can, usually that was kind of like the rule. But at the same time we did have snacks, so I remember Cheez-Its. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Cheez-Its, but that was like my favorite snack growing up. And so that was one thing.

And then in high school before tennis matches I’d have Mountain Dew and Twinkies, because I could, because I could buy it at the school store, and so that was like my energy-boosting snack before tennis matches.

So I mean, it kind of ran the gamut. I did have a baseline of healthy diet, so making a switch into maybe a raw food diet or a vegan diet or a extreme diet wasn’t that much of a switch for me, even though a lot of the stuff about raw food I just didn’t even like know or realize.

So that’s kind of where I come from, but for kids, you know, it’s really interesting, because we had Hudson two years ago, and that’s after I had started to kind of move out of this extreme diet kind of place. So I wasn’t a raw foodist anymore and I wasn’t vegan. And I’m actually really glad that Annemarie and I weren’t anymore, because we were able to be very flexible with Hudson’s own diet in a way that I feel…again, everyone thinks that they’re doing well for their kids, but I kind of feel that we’re doing it in a way that’s very sensible.

And so that’s kind of some of the details that I want to share with you guys today, including some of Fred’s experiences being around kids in his life, as well as some of the if the kid doesn’t eat. What do you feed the kid, kind of experience, which is panic for parents sometimes, because like, this kid won’t eat! Well you know, maybe there’s a reason why.

So do we start with that? I think actually let me start with that. I think that’s a really important kind of thing. The first thing that comes to mind when it comes to kids is that I truly believe that we as parents have been conditioned to eat at breakfast time, lunch time and dinner time, and sometimes we do it when we’re not even hungry. Fred, do you sometimes feel you have to eat dinner and you’re not even that hungry, but you still eat dinner?

Fred: Well I must say that recently I’ve kind of broken my usual eating pattern, so I just eat when I’m hungry, because I’m at home most of the time working from home, so I just really don’t follow a plan anymore. Like sometimes I have breakfast at 10, sometimes it’s at 8, you know, so it really…I mean, maybe it’s not ideal, but that’s just been what’s happening. So I’m totally not conditioned anymore to…before when I was a raw foodist, it was more of an issue, because if you didn’t eat enough for breakfast, then you’d be starving an hour or two later. And that could be a problem.

But now, if someone says we’re going to have dinner at 7 p.m., and yesterday I had dinner at 5, it’s not going to…I’m going to be okay. And I definitely think that kids don’t…I mean, I don’t know. On the one hand there’s this information about French kids from France, who it seems. like people are not snacking as much in France. And they eat three meals a day at regular times, and kids are allowed to have snacks, but for adults, it’s considered inappropriate. And in America it seems to be the opposite. So I really don’t know what’s ideal.

Kevin: What we found with Hudson, at least, and every kid is different, too, so you know, we only have one example, one like physical hands-on example, is that he kind of does have windows of time when he wants to eat. And usually, it’s definitely an hour after he wakes up. So that’s like a big thing. If we don’t feed him an hour after he wakes up, he turns into just a little terror, as much of a terror he can be. He’s not that bad, but he definitely starts to fuss and he doesn’t normally fuss.

And then lunch time, I mean, it varies. Sometimes he eats a little bit, sometimes he eats doesn’t. But we always find that if he doesn’t eat a lot for one of the meals, that he’ll pick it up. Maybe not the next one, but the one after. So within like two or three meals after the one where he didn’t eat enough, he’ll eat this massive meal. And to me that is more like a nature thing. That’s just a thing where he’s just not hungry, maybe he’s a little distracted, which is fine, but hungry kids will eat, and so they want to survive. So we found that if he doesn’t eat that first meal, maybe it’s lunchtime or dinner, we just know that in the next couple meals he will actually eat something.

And so we’ve just kind of lessened the stress around that, saying hey, his body is just telling him “no, I don’t want this right now,” and so okay, that’s fine. You still have to sit in your chair and you can maybe play with a toy or something, but when we’re all done with dinner, and then when we’re done, you can go play. And we know that you’ll be hungry the next time. Because there’s one thing that’s cool is if he’s growing and your child is happy, then chances are its getting enough food, and that’s really assuring as a parent, because you’re just like, cool. I don’t have to worry about whether my child is going to starve or not. And chances are the child won’t anyway, but still, it is very assuring to think like okay, well maybe today is not the day he’s going to eat a lot, and tomorrow, he will.

Fred: Kevin, what do you think are certain things that are important for kids that maybe parents should emphasize in terms of diet and nutrition for kids, and other things that maybe parents worry too much about them, but they could let go a little bit?

Kevin: So I have a list of about ten things. So I’ll share a few, Fred, and then I’ll ask you if you have any comments, and then I’ll keep going if you don’t. Does that sound cool?

Fred: Yeah.

Kevin: All right. Number one…I think the first major principal about this—and I know that you have some comments on this, Fred, so I’ll get you involved quick—is just trying to be so militant about the foods that the child is eating. I think that’s kind of a bad thing. And I don’t mean you know don’t feed them organic or don’t feed them, you know, I mean, you have to be specific about the foods you’re feeding your kid. You’re not just going to go out and say, well, whatever. I might as well just get some sort of sugary drink and just feed it to my child just because I don’t want to be militant. No, I mean we have to watch sugar, because sugar is definitely something that affects kid’s behavior in a very significant way very fast. I mean, these little bodies, if you inject sugar into them, within minutes, you’re just like, holy crap, what did I just do? I mean, this kid is off the walls. So that’s no good and it happens every once in awhile, and I think that that’s again part of the non-militant thing.

I mean, it is up to you as a parent to make sure that your kid is well-adjusted as well as make sure that they’re healthy. So there are times when as a small child there are situations…a perfect example is this. We were with friends in North Carolina, and they were a relatively healthy family, but they were feeding their kids Goldfish. They have like a little Goldfish…they were feeding their child Goldfish in a little cup. And Hudson went over and grabbed one and ate it. And at that moment, there’s only about half a cup of them, and Hudson wanted to share some and he wanted to have some. And at that moment Annemarie and I looked at each other first, because we caught each others eyes from the side, and we were like, wait a minute. These are Goldfish. This has like food coloring in it and it has this and that in it and probably not even real cheese. And so we looked at each other and said, so what’s the thing here, now? What do we do? Like what’s the experience? What’s the message? What are we putting out here?

And almost silently, we both kind of decided, hey, you know what? He can have the Goldfish here. He won’t ever have them at home. And he can eat a few of them. We’re not going to pull him away because he’s going to fuss and he’s literally going to freak out, and he’s not going to understand why the other baby can have the Goldfish and he can’t, and it’s also going to put the parent in a really awkward situation as well. And maybe you are, but I’m not the type of person who is going to say to a parent in that situation, “We don’t feed our kids Goldfish.” You know what I mean? Like to me, that’s something that you can address away from other people. Or if someone asks. I don’t want to force my viewpoint.

And so definitely not being so militant. And not being so militantly vegan or not being so militantly raw when it comes to kids. Because I think kids in terms of calories…healthy calories in is the most important. And most kids don’t eat greens, so that’s one of those things, too, where I think a lot of parents get really stressed out that their kids aren’t eating any greens, when in reality, I just don’t know if they have a taste for it just yet. Some kids will, and some kids will eat whatever, and you know, if that’s the case, that’s awesome. You have a great kid. But when it comes to greens, just know that maybe it’s just not exactly…it may not be exactly what your kid wants. Your kid might just need calories to grow.

So yes, that’s my thought. And I know, Fred, that you’ve probably had some experience with people being militant with their kids about their diet. What has been your experience with that?

Fred: Well my experience, and I’ve been around lots of people that are in raw food circles over the years, and so I’ve seen many families and so on. And I was in relationships in the past where the other person had kids, so I know a little bit about that topic. And there’s something that I’ve noticed in raw food families that kind of disturbed me. And that was not the case for vegans, but raw food, specifically—parents that insisted that their kids should eat a raw food diet that…well, the kids were kind of devils. They’re just uncontrollable. And I’ve never seen that. I mean, and I’m not going to describe the behavior, but imagine just your kid being transformed into a demon that runs around and destroys everything and just is totally uncontrollable. And that’s what a lot of those kids were. And I suspect that’s because somehow they were not getting enough calories, so there was that constant hunger kind of making them upset.

So I think that…I definitely don’t think that a raw food diet is a healthy diet for kids. And also to add to what you said, I also think that people that are, let’s say, health-conscious, our standards are super high. You know they’re really high for ourselves, and we often forget where we come from and what the rest of the world eats. So like you said, if your child has a few Goldfish, I mean, some kids eat that all the time. So even if they had a little bit of a sugary drink or soda or something. I mean, that’s not going to change anything in their health. Kids are healthy in general, as long as you don’t abuse their bodies with an onslaught of unhealthy foods and no exercise and so on. But overall they can get away with a lot.

So I think parents can chill out a little bit and realize that our standards are very high, you know, people that are listening to this podcast—you all belong to that category. So yes, we can relax a little bit about the little things and know that our kids are going to be healthy as long as most of their diet is generally healthy.

Kevin: Yes, I totally agree with that. I have some tips, because I know people want tips, and here are some of the things that we’ve done that really help. And some of them seem pretty easy and pretty basic, and some of them are things that we learned from time, just trying to figure things out.

So number one, from a very early age, I would make a smoothie with Hudson. And at about one, he started to really get interested. And I would just sit with him when I was making it. But around one, and one-and-a-half, he started to like point out the ingredients. And so now, he knows exactly what goes in the smoothie. I say, “what’s first?” He goes lettuce. I go, what’s next? He goes protein. What’s next? Mangos, you know, or berries, and then he sits there and he turns on the Vita mix and I tell him when to turn it off. And he turns it off. And of course that makes him really interested and excited about drinking the smoothie.

So that’s not only a really interesting way to get them to get a lot of servings of fruits and vegetables, it’s also a great way to sneak in some greens. In the smoothie that I make, I put a whole head of lettuce in there. So he’s getting a ton of lettuce. And I can do that with spinach or I can do that with any other green. And we started him early enough to where he definitely likes it and he definitely likes the taste. Like I’ll feed that smoothie to either Annemarie or maybe someone who’s visiting, and they’ll cringe a little bit. He doesn’t even have a cringe. He just drinks it. He likes it. You know, there’s no concern about the greens, so I’m really excited about that. So that’s a great way to get greens in, because I do know that they’re healthy. It’s just that even if they don’t crave them or want them, it is healthy and I think it is valuable to get into their diet.

Like I said, get involved in the process. Another thing that we do—Hudson’s taken a liking to celery and carrots and things like that. And I think the reason why is because we have— now that he is two, he can do this—is that we have a little very dull knife. It’s not even a knife. It’s like a kids knife that he uses to…he doesn’t even really cut it, because it doesn’t really cut, but he’ll cut the celery. Like if we’re making dinner, he’ll cut celery and he’ll cut carrots, or we’ll just give him some things to cut, apples, things like that. And I think being involved in the process, you always turn around and you’ll see him sneaking some bites of it. Of course he’s allowed to do that, but you always see him eating while he’s cutting, which is a nice way to go about it.

There’s a temptation to give him some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, because a lot of people in his school and his friends have these peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And not that there’s anything wrong peanut butter and jelly sandwiches if it’s done right. What we’ve done is we’ve taken sunflower butter, so we use sunflower butter—which is good because a lot of schools these days you can’t even bring peanut butter in because of peanut allergies. So sunflower butter, we use a presere that is sweeten by juice and not by…I forget the name of it, but it’s sweetened by juice and not by sugar. So there’s not a lot of sugar in the jelly. And then we use Ezekiel bread, which is you know, super thick grain-based bread. And so that’s a way to kind of get around the idea, because he’s going to eat someone else’s peanut butter and jelly when it’s around, so if we have our own, we feel better about the decision that we’re giving him. And he feels good because he’s getting peanut butter and jelly, too, even though it doesn’t have white bread…not white bread, but even fake whole wheat bread.

Sweet potatoes are a great way to fill up a kid. Popsicles made out of smoothies. So instead of giving a popsicle straight from the orange and the purple and the red and the blue ones that I used to eat when I was a kid, you know, you can make a mango smoothie and then just slide it into the popsicle molds and you can give them fresh fruit smoothies, sorry, fresh fruit popsicles, which are delicious. Mom and dad even like them.

One more thing is there are some organic smoothie packs that are like little baby food/smoothie packs. I forget the name of the company. I think it’s Plum Organics. And we get him those for snacks. The other day we…we don’t like to give him a lot of them, but he asked for one, and so I gave it to him. And then right after he finished it he wanted another one, and I was like, I don’t know, and he kept saying broccoli, broccoli, broccoli, because he wanted the broccoli apple smoothie pack. And I was like man, there’s no way I can deny a kid asking for, a two-year-old asking for broccoli apple smoothie pack. That’s teaching behavior that I don’t want. “No you can’t have broccoli!”

So that was one other. And then finally, I think, you know, a really good thing is to not really give them a choice. We don’t really give him a choice. We put the food in front of him when it’s dinner time and then we have at least three options, but we don’t ask him before and say, “Hey, do you want turkey or do you want rice or do you want sweet potatoes?” We just put the turkey, the rice and the sweet potatoes right in front of him and then that’s his option. Not to say that we put turkey, rice and sweet potatoes, but who knows if that’s what we have, then that’s what we put in front of him.

So those are my tips just through my learning experience that I think could be probably helpful.

Fred: I think those are great tips. I just want to add one. And it sounds like—you know it, Kevin—but it seems to me that kids don’t like certain combinations. I mean, what they don’t like in adult food is everything is mixed together. Like we like stuff that is complex and has lots of different layers and flavors. So I tend to eat like a kid, because I’ll cook some beans. I cooked, like yesterday, I spent like from 10 p.m. to midnight cooking just for a few days. So I was like cooking a lot of different things, but most of these are individual items. Like I cooked kale and added a simple sauce to it, and I made a big salad. And I cooked some, two different types of squash, and I made some beans.

I made a lot of different things, but they’re all individual foods. So I kind of like to do that, because it’s simple, but I know also, like you said, kids like that, too. Like they can identify what the food is. And if everything is mixed together, like in some foods and meals that us adults like, they don’t seem to dig it as much.

Kevin: Yeah, if he sees…he doesn’t really eat greens, like straight greens. So if he sees even cilantro in rice or something like that, or anything green inside of something, he’ll pretty much push it away. So keeping it simple and just having those things separate, even with dividers, he really likes dividers, too, for his food. So you know, and again, he just tends to eat it more when it’s compartmentalized. And I don’t know if that’s just his personality, but I sense that that happens with a lot of kids and maybe even why they have dividers in their foods.

So definitely a great tip, particularly if you’re having trouble getting your child to eat exactly what you want them to eat and you are mixing it together. And the only time he eats things when they are mixed together, which you guys might want to try, is when they’re in soups. So he definitely will eat a soup and he’ll eat the little pieces from the bottom as well if it’s all kind of in this like one soup. It’s all together.

Fred: All right. Well you got some great tips, Kevin, and I suppose that our listeners and readers will want to add some to the comment section of the blog. So make sure you go to to add your comments to this discussion.

Kevin: And we have 31 reviews on iTunes. Thank you all for reviewing. I want to see 32. Can someone give us a review? I know you’re listening out there. Go to iTunes and give us a review. It helps other people find out what we’re up to and get this great information. Take care.

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


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  1. THANK YOU very much por this pod cast and helping put everything in perspective! Since my son was born, 2 years ago I am very concerned about his health and our lifestyle. So we have changed a lot in our life and I even lost a whole lot of Kg and workout a lot and my son likes to “run” with me after each of my exercise sessions. So I’m very proud that I0ve been giving him such good role model. I also eat very clean and very healthy. BUT I have been really concerned because apart from the soups and the oatmeals where I put a mix of fruit I can’t seem to get my son to eat any vegetable or fruit (he looks at everything very suspiciously and doesn’t even try!). He also doesn’t drink any fluid apart from water (he still breastfeeds so no milk also) nothing with any other color than water. So I can’t try the vegetable smoothies ou juices (I have but he refuses to try them).

    So I was really concerned about all this.

    Listening to your pod cast helped me putting everything in perspective and learning that my kid is “normal” and it is ok to eat like this.

    Of course I take advantage from the fact that he loves soup and eats it very well so I vary a lot in them and he eats them at lunch and dinner all days. I also make oatmeal with a lot of mixed fresh fruits for breakfast or snack and he also eats them daily. Sometimes he accepts a banana (rarely).

    About all the things you say in the pod cast. I try to avoid that my son eats sugar in a daily basis and try to make my substitutes at home so he can have access to healthy versions of sugary things. But sometimes he eats a cake outside or in family meetings and it’s ok. As long as it’s not all the days. Also I’ve became a vegan and my husband is trying to limit his meat / fish consumption. So what we have decided about our son is that he will have vegan meals for the majority of his week meals but for 3 to 4 meals a week he will still eat fish or meat and when he grows up he can make his own choices about it. In this way I garantee that he feels normal aroud the family and the friends and he has access to B12 and all the vitamins and minerals and everything but also I garantee that he has a healthier life style.

    So again, thank you very much! And sorry for the mistakes: I am Portuguese!

  2. Kathrin says:

    Thank you! This is what we “strict” parents need to hear from time to time to give our kids break sometimes 😉

  3. Patrick S. says:

    Thanks for this great interview. It is a balanced approach to the topic.

  4. ilse says:

    Great tips! Your a good dad 😀 I do the same : healthy at home, no restriction at a party or with friends. My daughter is 8 and very healthy! Fruit for breakfast en with every meal raw veggies. She eats meat, fish, bread etc

  5. Aeron says:

    In order for children to like greens, they have to be introduced
    to them as soon as they are weaned, that is they no longer are
    getting mother’s milk,they begin with blended fruits, avocado, banana
    fresh juices, and eventually smoothies which are made with fruits and
    lettuces, celery, etc,,,,our children ate massive amount of greens
    after being weaned at 3 years, and still do at an older age,
    The trouble is that we feed processed foods too soon, before the
    child has all their teeth, and their taste buds become thwarted and they
    become fussy eaters, not wanting the flavorful simple garden foods because
    all processed foods contain sugar, salt etc,
    Our children thrive on garden food, organic is best and they stick with
    it when they become older,, it is by our example that they learn the most,

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