Ask any mother/parent what they struggle with most when trying to do the best for their kids or what brings about the most arguments, and unanimously one of the biggest ones is trying to get them to eat a healthy diet. Outside influences including peer pressure and tv advertising can make it a hot button topic, and it can often feel like a never ending tug of war.
My aim here is to change all that, by showing you how you can teach children to take responsibility for their own well-being, allowing them to make healthy choices for themselves such as swapping refined sugar for a healthy alternative like Manuka Honey (I personally love Mr Vitamins range) whilst understanding the logic behind it. It is basic human nature to rebel against being told what to do but to flourish when given responsibility, information and respect. The resulting benefits will be that your children feel in control of their lives, valued in their opinions, proud of their ability to take care of themselves and able to confidently and intelligently inform others about their lifestyle choices.
My own daughter has come home from school on several occasions and expressed her shock and disappointment at the poor food choices some of her friends have been given in their lunch-boxes. Rather than envy them, she understands that the choices she and I make for her lunches, come from a position of love and the desire to give her the best possible advantage in both her physical and mental health.
It seems to be a common trend amongst mothers who are time poor or feeling run-down themselves to think that junk food or fast food is an easy and acceptable option for their families. Unfortunately, this works completely contrary to the aim and rather than be the easy option, can result in kids who are a nightmare to control due to behavioral issues.
There is actually a proven link between junk food and criminality, so how could this type of thinking produce children who are a delight to spend time with. It is shocking to think that such a small attitude shift in what you give your family can make such a huge difference. All children want to be loved and valued and they are at your mercy as to what their diet consists of. They have no choice in the matter, and yet suffer the consequences of our poor decisions.
A Few Necessary Negatives
It is imperative that if you wish to protect your family’s health, you completely remove the following from their diet:
NO: processed luncheon meat, refined white sugar or refined carbohydrates, high fructose corn syrup, food additives (click here for a list)
For toddlers and preschoolers you have a captured audience, and the wonderful thing is that there is no peer pressure. In my experience, small children prefer to graze rather than sit down to strict meal times. They are always distracted, and everything else seems more interesting than eating.
I have noticed also that they prefer foods not to be mixed, but to be presented singly. With this in mind, have bowls of fruit, vegetables or seeds laying around the house so they can help themselves. Make sure they can’t choke on anything though, and ensure that any dried fruit doesn’t contain preservatives!
School aged children
By the time children reach school age, they are old enough to discuss the negatives of unhealthy foods on their bodies and to be encouraged to make sensible choices with regards to their own health.
Once teenagers start feeling the effects of poor dietary choices such as acne, depression or hormonal issues, it becomes easier to show how their diet has a direct impact on their body as a whole. Provide a wide range of healthy, fresh food options ONLY, in your house. Make sure there is enough to satisfy the appetite of growing bodies, but try to limit everything to wholesome, organic selections. It is impossible to prevent them coming into contact with junk food outside the home, but at least you can minimize the impact of them and at best, you can educate your kids to make mature decisions regarding them.
The beauty of the school lunch is that you have a captured audience so if you can provide something half tempting for them to eat, chances are, with nothing else on offer, they will eat it.
Around our house the motto is ‘vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds – these are all my body needs’. Whilst it may not be entirely comprehensive, it does have a little dance that goes with it! Children should be a delight to be around. Having happy, healthy, intelligent children who feel good about themselves can be achieved so easily and improve not only your life but the world as a whole.
Best of luck!