As parents, we’ve all probably had the experience. Waiting in the line at the supermarket and your child starts asking for the lollies that are laid out just at their eye-level. You either refuse flat out – and stick to your guns – or you agree because, well, they have just behaved quite well around the aisles and, frankly, you’re too tired to face the possible nuclear fall out.
Our children are our most precious achievements. We want them to be safe, to experience love, to be healthy, fit and nurtured. But healthy eating can be a struggle when – as a parent – you are facing down multimillion dollar companies pumping money into advertising that entices kids to want want want the cheap processed foods that are displayed at eye level on the shelves.
But you can stop the struggle if you commit to healthy eating conversations. If you say no to the Freddo Frog, explain why. Similarly if you say yes, explain why. But please don’t make that treat a reward for good behaviour in the shops.
Kids are smart. My own children are six and three years old. Of course, with me as their Mum they are forever reminded about good foods and bad foods 🙂 But the point is, they do understand. We have conversations in the food aisles and my three- year-old will ask me now if what she has pick of the shelf is healthy or not.
I make a huge effort to curb the amount of processed junk food my kids have but of course there are times when they get a special treat. It is evident up to half an hour after they have had it: their behaviour ‘alters’ (my polite way of saying they swing from the ceiling) due to the sugar high their bodies are experiencing. Then the fatigue sets in when they come off their sugar high.
You are what you eat
Our children are always watching us. They learn from everything we do, including what we eat and drink. The best gift we can give our kids is a great example of healthy eating and wellness. They may not thank us now (particularly when they really want that lolly in the supermarket!) but they will in the long run.
Young children are easily influenced so fill your cupboards with whole foods and colourful fruit and vegetables. The key is being organised. Having food readily available to replace the normal processed snack. Yes, it’s easy to throw your kids a packet of Tiny Teddy’s or a packet of chips but there is no nutritional value in those foods. My daughter’s latest craze is egg whites cooked on the sandwich press in a gingerbread man cookie cutter – she thinks it is fabulous!
Facing up to fast food
We all know the ‘fast food’ chain with the man with the big red shoes. It offers our children happy meals (full of sugar and saturated fat) with a toy and a playground to run around in. Even worse, because they are a multinational and can buy ingredients in bulk, the meals are cheap. Throw in a coffee counter, and you can see the attraction for many parents – even if they know, deep down, it’s not a healthy choice.
Occasionally, it can be OK. Just. Like once a quarter (and I’m gritting my teeth as I write this!) But it has to be part of your healthy food conversation with your children. Explain why it is empty nutrition. Why choosing water with your Happy Meal is better than the juice. Why that seared chicken snack wrap without mayo is far better than the quarter-pounder with cheese. Otherwise what started as an occasional treat when they were small becomes a regular eating hang-out when they become teens because they don’t understand what they’re actually putting in their mouths.
Try this for a Happy Meal alternative. On a special occasion take your kids to the shops to pick a cheap toy, drive to the park, have a big play then and go home and let your kids help make homemade pizzas full of nutritious toppings, with my fabulous homemade iceblocks for dessert. You will have a happy child. Without the sugar crash.
What healthy food conversations have you had with your children? Any great ways you’ve gotten your youngsters to understand about poor and good food choices? I’d love to hear from you!