When one third of children in the U.S. are considered obese, it's safe to say that what we are currently doing is not working. But with major corporations pushing their sugar-laden agendas, it can be hard to filter through all the information out there. Even harder is changing your children’s eating patterns once they’ve grown accustomed to the sweet treats offered to them EVERYWHERE!
- School lunches are still loaded with processed foods, and french fries are considered a vegetable.
- Sweet treats are rewards and birthday parties are filled with cupcakes, ice cream and pizza.
- TV commercials promise never ending joy at the bottom of every sugary cereal box.
How can you combat this as a parent and steer your children in the direction of a healthier lifestyle? While I am still trying to figure this out for my own kiddos, here are a few things that have worked thus far.
Do your research.
You have to educate yourself about basic nutritional needs, the current landscape of the food industry in the U.S. and what is truly needed and beneficial for your kids’ physical and emotional health.
Real food is king. The foods that God created will forever and always be full of health benefits for you and your children. While you may need to educate yourself about how much to eat of each of those foods, you truly can’t go wrong with whole foods for your kids.
Food Sensitivities are real, and should be considered on an individual basis. Dairy, gluten and eggs are common offenders in the food sensitivity department, but there may be other things you or your children are sensitive to, so it’s important to listen to your body and teach your kiddos to do the same. When they say they have a tummy ache, are acting out of character or are exhibiting signs of inflammation (check the skin first), think through what they’ve eaten and do your own elimination testing. You may find that it’s nothing, but you may be surprised what a difference removing certain foods can make.
It is important that we teach our kids that the goal is not restriction or being good when it comes to food, but instead, that our goal is to feel our very best. We can eat ANYTHING that helps us feel strong, healthy and mentally clear, but we should listen to our bodies and stop eating the things that our bellies can’t tolerate.
Take Baby Steps.
If you want to help your family start eating healthier at home, take things slowly. Don’t clean out every piece of processed food from the pantry, making the experience completely miserable for your kids. Don’t make perfect the enemy of good. Start small, and pick from the low hanging fruit. Make some simple swaps: fruit for gummies, Greek yogurt for the sugary version and water for juice boxes. Introduce your kids to fun, healthy treats. Take things slowly, and you’ll be able to change their tastes so healthy eating isn’t a chore or punishment, but a treat!
Let Your Kids Make Decisions.
Once your kids are old enough, and have become accustomed to eating in a healthy way, give them opportunities to choose what’s best for their bodies. If they are at a birthday party and want pizza, let them decide that. The goal is to allow our kids the freedom to choose what fuels their bodies well. Keep the lines of communication open, remind them to listen to their bodies and how they respond to certain foods, then let them decide.
*This obviously goes for kids who are old enough and educated enough to make decisions wisely. I am not advocating that you allow your two year old to choose all of his meals! But, if you have kids in late elementary school, middle or high school, they need to be able to make decisions about what they put into their bodies.
When it comes to what kids should eat, EVERYONE has an opinion. I certainly have some of my own, and will regularly use my platforms to communicate what I believe to be best for the next generation. But, it is so important that as a parent you talk to your children about the importance of eating in a healthy way, and that you model how to do that well. Perfect doesn’t exist, so judgements need to be put aside. We are all trying to do our best for our kids, so give yourself and all of the other parents out there a little bit of grace as we all try to figure out how to do this well.