Avoiding Obesity: Getting Kids To Eat Healthy Food

At a get together a few weeks ago, a friend began telling a story. She’s kind of the oblivious type and was laughing at the fact that her daughter, who is eight years old, had commented that she didn’t want to eat a falafel because the sauce had so much fat in it. The young girl, who is a bit on the chubby side, was trying to watch her fat intake. I silently listened, but felt secretly appalled. This young girl has been known to suck in her belly when conversations start heading towards weight or health in general. And again, she’s eight years old. It deeply saddened me to listen to this mother, an immigrant, who may not be thoroughly educated about healthy living or who may, like many of us, choose convenience over nutrition or give in to temptation more than she would like to.

Photo courtesy of bellafia

What bothered me about this conversation was the fact that an eight-year-old cannot and should not be making her own decisions when it comes to meals. Yes, she should be taught healthy eating, but she should NOT have the choice to have so much ice cream before dinner, that she gets FULL from it, chooses to SKIP dinner, and goes to bed with nothing more than a belly full of sugar. And this was not a one-time occurrence either. The mother seemed a bit embarrassed to admit this happens more often than she would like.

Of course, she seems to be headed towards that doomed path of childhood obesity. Hopefully that will not be her fate, but it’s definitely possible. And what breaks my heart the MOST about this situation is that it’s not her fault. It’s the parents who are responsible for saying ‘no’ to ice cream, or at the least, limiting it to an acceptable portion size. Parents are responsible for telling their children what’s for dinner and for providing them with nutritious food.

Photo courtesy of whologwhy

I hear many parents saying ‘oh my child hates broccoli’, or ‘he never eats his vegetables’. If I asked the same parents if they love their veggies, the answer is probably no. Also, my children eat what I eat, and that’s an expectation in my house. No one gets a specially prepared meal according to their mood for the day. We are a family and we eat as a family. My kids love vegetables — raw, steamed, however they’re prepared, my kids eat them. That is because all of my extended family are vegetable lovers. We grow a garden in the summers, visit farmer’s markets, and will all ‘veg out’ on broccoli, yams, Brussels sprouts, and many other fruits and vegetables. If I eat my vegetables happily, I am setting an example for my children. This has made me limit how many boxes of cookies I have in my pantry, and how much ice cream is in my freezer. The equation is simple. If you don’t have it in your home, you can’t eat it. So parents, please please please, let’s teach our children how to eat well, let’s tell our children that we are the bosses, and let’s be good role models. Below, I have listed a few ideas for how to encourage healthy eating in your home.

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1. Don’t buy unhealthy food when you’re at the supermarket. I used to buy big bags of chips. Now I skip the big bag, and if the kids want a treat, I buy a small bag (or the 100 calorie options) and make both kids share.

2. Stock your home with easily accessible healthy snacks. I buy blueberries and strawberries, easy to peel oranges and bananas. I also buy a big bag of pre-cut, washed broccoli from Costco and I cut peppers, celery and carrots to bite-sized pieces. This way, if the kids want a snack, healthy food is accessible.

3. Teach your children about the effects of sugar. My son has seen pictures of children with rotting teeth. He knows he will get a tummy ache (I let him eat too much one day just to prove my point). Now if I explain that something has “too much sugar,” he gets it.

Allowing our children to eat unhealthy foods may not seem like such a big deal right now. It may be the most convenient thing for a tired mom or it may be the easiest way to avoid battling your children to get them to finish their dinner, but the effort that you put in now will definitely pay off in the long run. I promise you.