I was recently traveling in the Northeast back to my NYC roots (yes thats' why I hadn't posted in a bit). I was walking along the Northern New Jersey shore on a beautiful day when the following took place.
Two Moms were pushing toddlers in their strollers with two slightly older children--maybe about age six or so--walking alongside. I heard one of the kids say "Mommy I'm hungry". To which I was very surprised to hear the Mom reply "No problem, I have a nice granola bar for you." That was the first surprise as this was an East Coast beach scene, not a California beach scene.
What happened next was a shocker. The little girl yelled back at the Mom at the top of her lungs "I WANT JUNK FOOD", and simultaneously, ripped a small bag of what looked like potato chips out of the stroller child's tiny hands. Mom looked quite pained and now had to deal with a stubborn child, and a crying toddler.
This little six year old was already having junk food cravings and literally called them that despite Mom's best efforts to have her eat healthy. And she was even moved to a bit of violence against her sibling to get the junk food she wanted. That's positively scary.
Now I don't know whether this effort to change the kid over to a granola bar was a new thing or not, but I think when it comes to having kids eat healthy, it's got to start at a very early age. Here are some tips for doing just that:
1. Parents must set a great example themselves--if they eat junk food all the time in front of the kids, you can't exactly expect the kids to not mimic that.
I hate to say it, but I have some pretty strong memories as a kid myself of my parents eating some very unhealthy things in large portions, and I used to copy it when I could. In fact, I thought it was something grown ups did, and I thought it would be rite of passage to be able to do the same as an adult. Instead it was something that took me years to unlearn.
2. Call the healthier version of what you want the kid to eat the same name as the not so healthy food--a perfectly acceptable white lie.
I did it with my young niece when she was a baby and was getting addicted to Cheetos as soon as she could chew. I gave her Robert's American Gourmet Pirate Booty (which I was addicted to and still am), and called it a Cheeto (no offense to Pirate Booty) and she loved this much healthier version of the same cheese puff snack and was none the wiser. In fairness, we didn't have Baked Cheetos back then like we do today, or I could have given her those at least instead.
When I lived in Southern California, I noticed Moms in the local Golden Spoon frozen yogurt chain would tell the kids to pick out their "ice cream". Did they know any different with the great tasting treat before them?
Maybe if the Mom in the scene I witnessed called the granola bar a candy bar she would have avoided a war.
3. Pick out fun finger foods that are also healthy or healthier ones. A bag of baby carrots. Dinosaur-shaped healthy Ian's chicken nuggets. Healthy cereals like Cheerios. A whole grain mini bagel.
If it looks fun to eat, they don't have to know it's healthy--only you do. They can appreciate you for helping them to grow up healthy and adopt healthy eating habits from a young age when they are old enough to appreciate your genius.
And now I'd like to invite you to learn the secrets of how it is deliciously possible to achieve healthy eating and weight loss without giving up ANY of your favorite comfort foods, by getting free access to two chapters from my book "Have Your Cheeseburger And Keep Your Health Too!" You can download them for free by going to http://www.healthyeatingcoach.com/bookexcerpt.html
--Melanie R. Jordan, Author of Have Your Cheeseburger And Keep Your Health Too! Available 24/7 at http://www.HealthyEatingCoach.com
"Healthy eating with favorite comfort foods...it's deliciously possible!"
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