Help Your Children Stay Away From Junk Food

Family Eating An Al Fresco Meal

By: Mackenzie Fox

@mac_fox

I know firsthand that no matter how much you insist that no junk food is allowed in your house, your children will still find a way to smuggle it in. Maybe they buy it at school, or are given it by their friends, or maybe they just produce it out of thin air. However they’re doing it, it’s posing a problem.
The solution? Get them interested in eating healthily because they want to, not because I told them to. I’ve studied the best ways to achieve this change of heart, and I’m happy to share them with you!

·Talk to them about the health risks of eating too much junk food

A generic “eating this is bad for you” won’t cut it. You need to actually explain to them why it’s bad for them. Tell them, for example, about how much sugar can rot their teeth and lead to trips to the dentist. (No child likes the dentist.) And explain to them, gently, that a diet consisting of mostly junk food can up the risk of diabetes.

·Try and counteract their exposure to junk food adverts

I’ll be the first to admit that this is very difficult. Some countries are working on banning junk food advertising during children’s shows, but in most places that hasn’t happened yet and probably never will. And then there’s the endless adverts for junk food in the high street, before movies at the cinema, in magazines, in comics, everywhere!
But maybe you can counteract this, at least a little. Explain to your children how adverts work – they’re trying to entice you into buying things you can absolutely live without. If you see big public promotions for junk food products at the shopping mall, turn around with your kids and walk the other way. And maybe consider limiting their access to television, even – not only because of the adverts, but because that’s time that could be spent exercising or spending time together as a family.

·Set a good example

You should never, ever, ever tell your children they can’t have junk food and then go ahead and help yourself to a chocolate sundae. What sort of example is that setting? Your kids will think you’re the biggest hypocrite in the world. No, you should be eating exactly what your children are eating – healthy food.

·Make food fun

What are some of the big things that entice children towards junk food? Bright colours, cute shapes, association with their favourite characters, all that kind of thing. Luckily, you can use these same tricks, but with healthy foods!

Try cutting pieces of cucumber into star shapes, for example. Or arrange healthy meals into a smiley face on the plate. These are tiny things, but you’d be amazed at the positive effect they can have on a kid.

And don’t forget to beat the junk food companies at their own game by associating healthy foods with your children’s favourite characters! Tell them, for example, that the reason Spider-Man is so strong is because he eats his vegetables.

·Get them involved in food shopping, planning and preparing

Simply serving your kids healthy food and telling them to eat it isn’t enough. They’ll take one look at it and turn their noses up. But food they’ve made themselves, on the other hand…

Take your kids round the fresh food aisle of the supermarket and get them to pick out fruit and veg they like. Show them how to pick the best ones and quiz them on where you should store them. After that, show your kids a selection of healthy recipes and whatever one they choose, suggest that they help you make it. Before long, they’ll start to associate healthy food with being treated like an adult – and that’s a very important thing indeed for a child.

Bear in mind that you don’t have to ban junk food treats entirely from your children. Things like receiving a birthday cake, or sweets for Halloween, are essential parts of childhood for most people. There’s no need to be a tyrant. But with 30% of adults now obese – and the problem usually starting in childhood – something needs to change. Do your absolute best to follow advice regarding healthy food, and hopefully your children should grow up into healthy adults.