Brightly colored candy wrappers, cartoon characters on packages and treats that pop out of toys- I can’t even begin to count all of the junk food obstacles we are faced with every time we leave our house.
Then, one time in the grocery store, I made the mistake of turning my already tired child around to face the drink cooler… “Ooh, mommy look! Seltzer Water! I want it pleeaaaaase!”
Unfortunately, it’s not seltzer water- it’s soda. After a long discussion that resulted in us settling on a bottle of unsweetened tea, it was finally our turn to check out and get out of the store.
This is not a new concern for anyone trying to get their kids to eat healthy and keep their families in top shape.
Personally, I feel like I am in a never-ending battle with my kids whenever I need to tell them why the fun foods are not good for them. Sometimes, I resort to telling my son that his muscles will disappear if he eats sugary candy. I know that method isn’t going to work forever, but this new three-year-old kid is excited about the fact that he will have big muscles one day.
You can’t shield your kids from the temptation of eating sweet treats in every situation. Eventually, they’ll be going to places without you. They’ll hang out with their grandparents who don’t know how to say no. They’ll go off to birthday parties and school events where you can’t control what they put in their mouths.
I have discovered that, as a mom, I could either stress myself out about the foods they eat OR I could instill a good foundation of healthy eating. I choose to teach them how to make good food choices so that even though I may not be with them all the time, I know they’ll be conscious about the foods they eat.
Here are 4 (yes, just 4!) simple ways to train your kids to say no to junk foods:
1. Teach them to cook
Even at 3, my son helps me in the kitchen. He can add ingredients that I measure out for him. He loves to mix or chop with a plastic knife.
When kids cook food, they become proud of it and will likely feel more encouraged to eat it.
My goal is to teach my kids about real food and real ingredients as they grow up. This is to help them learn how to pay attention to the ingredients they eat along the way.
2. Packed lunches and treats are the new fast foods!
I get teased for bringing my own snacks, but it’s always good to know that I have a treat for my family if ever they get hungry.
When I send my kids to their grandparents for the weekend, I always send “approved” treats in hopes that they will eat them instead of the treats from their grandparents’ candy jar. I pack my husband lunch every day, too.
3. Talk to your kids about healthy choices
Kids are not too young to start learning about health.
We teach our kids about how meat helps our brain grow and how broccoli makes us strong. We talk about how having too many sugary treats makes us hyper or sick.
My son is always telling on his grandmother for giving him ice cream or candy because he knows I wouldn’t let him have those things. While he is only three, he is starting to get the idea that there are foods mommy and daddy don’t like him to have.
4.Create alternatives and special moments
We have a few “go-to” treats that we allow in our house on occasion, whether they are Paleo baked goods or almond milk ice cream. I know my husband loves ice cream. So, in the summer, we go out for special ice cream dates and we talk about how we are on a special adventure.
We aren’t teaching our kids that they cannot ever have a sweet. What we are teaching them is that we can’t eat junk food all day, every day. I want my kids to understand that foods can heal or harm the body depending on how one eats them.
It really is a tough job to raise healthy kids in a world full of unhealthy foods. Saying “No” and preparing yourself for the EPIC meltdown that could follow is not fun. But, knowing that my kids rarely get sick and that they enjoy foods grown in a garden makes all the hard work worth it.
Kids are the future of our world and setting them up for success should start with the foods they eat.
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Paleo Coach, Foodie and Homestyle cook, Wife and mom to my two adorable kiddos.