Have you ever wondered why grocery stores keep the sugar laden cereals at your kid’s eye level? Or why 99.9% of food commercials on TV are advertising junk, processed foods. Or better yet, why they have all the candy right there at the checkout stands so your kids can pester, plead, and beg you to buy them candy the whole time you’re trying to check out? Yep, it’s a conspiracy against parents. Luckily, there are some strategies we can use (besides never taken your kiddos into a store again or banning your TV) to help us get around all the unhealthy foods that seem to be pushed on us and our kids.
I have been blessed with having both teenagers and younger children at the same time. Both sets with different dietary needs and different likes and dislikes when it comes to food. My teenage boys are athletic, physical, growing boys. Even though they both look full grown (at 6 feet tall) they are still growing and their bodies, inside and outside, need the right foods to help them with this.
My two younger children have different needs both physically and emotionally when it comes to food. They are both adopted and we’ve had to learn the challenge of dealing with children who have had to go hungry in their past. Hunger can do many things to you emotionally. We’ve had to learn to help our children understand they won’t ever go hungry again and that they don’t need to hoard food or over eat. It hasn’t been easy and it will be a long road but we are trying to help them understand by always having nutritious meals and snacks (and sometimes not so nutritious snacks just for the fun of it) available for them.
So, how do you get kids fit and healthy and to think about healthy eating without having them obsess about it or giving them an unhealthy complex? Exercise and watching what you eat are the two obvious answers to keeping your kids fit. But how do you really get kids to do that? Especially if they have a tendency to be little mini couch potatoes. Here are a few ideas for you.
- Set the example- You can’t get your little mini me’s to eat nutritiously when they see you eating McDonalds and Dunking Donuts. Not that I don’t love donuts. Because I do. I really LOVE donuts. However, donuts aren’t the norm for us. Set the example by making nutritious eating a priority in your own life.
- Cut out the sugar- Ok, maybe you can’t completely cut sugar out of your life but you can cut way back. Some simple things you can do is to avoid fruit snacks, deli meats, fruit juices, kid’s yogurts, and avoid the cereal aisle. Even the healthiest cereals really aren’t that good for you. The sugary cereals are no better than handing your kids a handful of cookies in the morning and telling them to drown them in milk. Try eggs, oatmeal, toast, etc…. I know, you may have to actually cook breakfast in the mornings. However, depending on the age of your kids, they can certainly help. So, slip on those big girl panties and go for it.
- Pizza, Fries, Sodas, Oh My! Teenagers are notorious for wanting to live off junk. Mine are no exception. They want their bodies to look good so they can strut their stuff but they want to eat junk. As a parent of teens, it can be a real challenge once they start going off on their own more and more. You aren’t always there to control what they are eating. Plan on having as many sit down meals as possible (sitting down at your own table and not McDonalds) during the week. Your family needs the bonding time as well as the proper nutrition they receive from the home cooked meals.
- Purchase healthy foods- Your kids won’t starve to death if they don’t have junk food available on a daily basis. It’s ok to have the occasional not so healthy snack. Just don’t make it the everyday habit.
- Let them help with the meal planning- That’s easy for me since I own a menu planning service. After the menus are out for that week I will let the whole family decide what we are eating for the week. It makes a huge difference when they have had a say so on what to eat.
- Teach your children to cook- It’s not too late to start teaching your older children about nutrition and keeping their bodies fit. Teach them to cook. All four of my boys are learning to cook (my youngest wants his own cooking show) and learning healthy ways to cook.
- Respect their appetites – If they really aren’t hungry, don’t try to force them to eat. Don’t bribe them to clean their plates. And please don’t use the starving children act. Likewise, if your child has a tendency toward overeating, help him or her to understand what it means to be full. We quite often ask one of our younger ones , “is your tummy comfortable?” That’s when you need to stop. Don’t make them feel guilty or bad for how little or much they eat.
- Last but certainly not least- It’s Biblical! I Corinthians 6: 19-20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. Let children know that God truly cares about our bodies and what we put into it.
You don’t have to be the food police. It’s ok (really it is) to have a donut every now and then. The occasional candy bar is ok in my book as well. What you don’t want is to make it the norm and you want your kids to understand why it’s not the norm. Remember, it really is about life style. You choose the style and your kids will follow.