There is a goblin that waits in your pantry, sits in your refrigerator, and roams in between your child’s ears. His purpose is to turn your child’s diet into one sugar-salted-carbonated mess. You, superhero that you are, are the only one who can thwart the goblin’s evil plan. But you have to have a plan of your own.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Carolyn Ashworth, award winning pediatrician, author and mother. There are manageable steps to improving your child’s nutrition. Sometimes it is just a matter of removing all of the “but” statements. Dr. Ashworth shows you how.
But the label says 100% juice. Fluid intake is an important part of your child’s nutrition. Don’t be fooled by lemonade products and 100% juice labels. They are loaded with sugar and empty calories.
Solution: Squeeze a slice of orange or lemon into eight ounces of water. You could even add a quarter-teaspoon of honey for extra flavor.
But my kids won’t cook healthy food for themselves. Years ago, children were forbidden from touching the stove. This effectively stopped them from cooking their own meals. With the prevalence of microwaves, even younger children prepare their own meals when parents are away.
“You know they’re not going to fix themselves a turkey sandwich,” says Ashworth.
Solution: It may seem convenient but avoid stocking the freezer with pizza and hot pockets. Make it easy for kids to have healthy meals and snacks by planning ahead. Subway sandwiches with lean meat and fresh veggies, pasta, and even homemade pizza can be nutritious and appealing to kids when it’s already prepared and waiting in the refrigerator.
But my kids won’t eat breakfast. Breakfast is exactly that–breaking a fast. If you don’t eat breakfast your body is essentially in a starvational state which leads to lowered metabolism. It has recently been shown that breakfast helps increase good cholesterol and lowers triglycerides which helps protect against heart disease.
So why are your kids skipping breakfast?
One reason kids, especially teens, are missing out on breakfast, is because they are sleeping in late on those lazy weekends and school breaks. When a child sleeps until one in the afternoon, they have seriously deprived their body of nutrition.
Another reason why kids don’t get their breakfast is that they simply don’t like breakfast foods.
Solution: Set an alarm, establish chores or task that have to be completed before 8 a.m., or plan early morning activities with the family, anything to get your troops out of bed. Sit down together for breakfast or at least make sure that everyone eats something to start the day.
There’s a quick fix for kids who hate breakfast food. Let them eat cake. Actually, cake is out, but they can certainly eat healthy foods that are not traditional morning fare. Think sandwiches or last night’s lasagna.
But my kids are not emotional eaters. Think again. “I’m bored” eating is certainly an emotional eating behavior that is prevalent among children and adults. The problem is especially bad when children are home alone.
Solution: Talk to your child about any emotional reasons for eating and seek professional help as needed. Emotional eating or boredom can be helped by channeling energy into fun activities.
But my kids don’t like healthy snacks. Hold out one hand with carrots and the other hand with cheese puffs and you can guess which one most kids will go for.
Solution: “The main thing is, if it’s not there, they can’t eat it,” says Ashworth.
Rid the pantry of fatty, salty, sweet snacks. Instead, try unsatled nuts, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, covered raisins, pretzels, dried fruit and whole wheat crackers. Parents can keep a plastic container full of fruit, like sliced cantaloupe and strawberries, and vegetables like celery and carrots. Even if they add a little ranch dressing it’s not as bad as eating chips.
But vegetables cost too much. Many parents shy away from fresh fruits and vegetables due to cost. If the kids won’t eat, it spoils and ends up in the garbage.
Solution: Your child might not peel an orange, but if you slice it up and put it in the fridge they might indulge. The key is to make good feeds easy and accessible for kids.
Canned fruits and vegetables are cheap. They’re probably not as healthy as fresh, but canned produce without the added sugar or salt makes giving kids fruits and vegetables more affordable. Frozen fruits and vegetables are also an option, and it is suggested that they are better than fresh because they are frozen at their peak.
The goblin has a plan, but so do you. It’s a battle worth fighting, and with these steps you and your family are sure to win.
Do you find it difficult to get your kids to eat healthy? What are your tips and tricks for healthy eating? Any experience with “I’m bored” eating?
Dr. Carolyn Ashworth is an award-winning pediatrician, mother and author of Defeating the Child Obesity Epidemic. Her passions include children’s health, her family, travel and Japanese martial arts. To learn more about Dr. Ashworth visit DrCarolynAshworth.com.