Your kids want cookies, squeezable yogurt, and cheese puffs.
You want kids that are focused in school, get sick less often, recover faster, and are more happy and healthy overall.
Put the effort into training your kids’ taste buds now and take the fight out of healthy eating later.
1. Get rid of all the junk food in the house. Throw it out and don’t bring it back! If they know it’s in the cupboard and you’re just not letting them have it, it will become an endless battle of wills.
2. Keep an ample supply of healthy snacks on hand that are easily accessible to the kids. I like to have a shelf of “you don’t have to ask” snacks -- foods that kids can help themselves to as much as they like, as often as they like. They’ll appreciate the autonomy and you’ll appreciate not having to be “food cop” all the time.
3. Train your kids to like vegetables. Vegetables are a free pass in the realm of good eating. You can’t possibly eat too many even if you ate nothing but vegetables all day long. High fiber, low calorie, zero fat, low or no sugar, and the single highest nutrient density of any food group. Vegetables are a no-brainer, pure goodness food.
4. Fruit is nature’s dessert. We all like to give our kids a treat sometimes. Fruit is naturally sweet and naturally high in Vitamin C. Eat with the seasons and you’ll get the best nutrition and flavor -- Summer: berries, cherries, plums, peaches, melons; Fall: apples, pears, grapes; Winter: citrus. Fruits and vegetables are not interchangeable. Vegetables trump fruits every time. It’s the sugar factor.
5. Be a role model. Kids are great at sniffing out a double standard. Don’t have one set of rules for your kids and a different set for yourself. Eat your vegetables at every meal. Don’t even think about keeping a secret stash of junk food for the grown-ups. Think about your drinks too. Americans get an average of 40% of their daily calories from beverages alone. Think how fast those extra pounds could be shed simply by drinking water only.
6. Be Consistent! Above all else, be consistent day in and day out. Making exceptions sends a clear signal to your kids that you are open to lobbying, so let the whining begin! A common exception that many parents fall into is rewards. Find something else to reward your kids with -- they get to pick the weekend family activity, a sleepover with friends, etc.
Remember when life was simpler and there were only 2 food groups? Junk Food and everything else. And it was pretty clear what junk food was -- soda, potato chips, candy and, well, all desserts. Then a marketing explosion of all these in-between food categories came about to the point it has become difficult to tell what’s good and what’s junk.
“Treat: (n.) an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure.”
Snacks, on the other hand, have to play by the same everyday nutrition rules as breakfast, lunch and dinner. Many treats are marketed as snacks at the grocery store by their packaging and their placement in the store. Don’t be fooled! If you wouldn’t load up your child’s dinner plate with it, then it is not an acceptable snack.
Healthy snacks are low in sugar. Most of us probably have no idea how much sugar is too much for a child, much less ourselves. Check the label on any of your favorite products; you won’t find a “% Daily Value” on sugar. The American Pediatric Association and nutritionists have been trying to get a standard set for years and the number they would like to see is 40 grams per day. To put that into perspective, that’s one can of soda for your entire daily supply of sugar. Sugar consumption in America is out of control. Try adding up you own daily intake and you will likely be astounded. How many grams of sugar in your kid’s cereal and the orange juice they drank with it? The chocolate milk at lunch and the cookie you packed? The granola bar they had after school? You’ll get the picture...fast.
Healthy snacks don’t need “added vitamin C” or “fortified with Calcium” or “made with Probiotics.” Healthy foods come by their goodness naturally. When you see foods or food products boasting on their packaging about all the wonderful things the manufacturer has added to it, that’s typically a big red flag that that particular food had little or nothing to offer you in the way of nutrition in the first place, so they had to dress it up. A cookie with a vitamin added is still a cookie.
Think about what it is made of, not what they’re calling it. Granola bars are a big hit with the kids. Why? Because they’re candy bars. Chocolate chips, marshmallows, caramel...throwing a handful of oats in it and calling it by a different name does not make it a health food. Think of it like this: if you took a green bean and dipped it in chocolate, rolled it in marshmallows, and drizzled it in caramel, would you serve it at dinner as your vegetable?
Healthy foods are natural and whole (unprocessed or minimally processed). Great, we just eliminated everything in a package. Some of you may be saying, “Now what am I supposed to feed the kids?” the rest of you might be saying “Phew, no more reading confusing labels!”
Raisins or Dried Fruit (choose unsweetened)
Seeds and Nuts
Whole grain crackers
Almond butter, Sunflower butter, Cashew butter
Apple slices with almond butter
Pear slices with cashew butter
Fresh vegetables with a dip
Soups -- Annie’s low sodium canned soups, miso soup, or homemade can be prepared ahead of time and frozen in small portions
Granola - make your own, store bought contains too much sugar, see recipes below