Fast food restaurants on almost every corner, vending machines in every school, junk food that lines store shelves and is stacked by registers... what chance do our kids have to be healthier and make better food choices? This has led to an "overfed, undernourished generation."
When I had my daughter Lily 11 years ago, as a dietitian I knew I was going to be strict about her food choices. At a young age, she knew what was the “healthier acceptable food choice or treat” versus one that had what I called “icky” things in it that were not optimal for her body. As parents, it's important we try to do the best we can for our children at home. We can positively influence their food choices, so they choose wisely when venturing out in the world.
I was pleased to see that one of the houses we stopped at for Halloween this year offered two bowls to select from. One was traditional unhealthy candy, and the other had healthier options. To my wonderful surprise, my daughter came to me beaming with delight that she chose from the healthy bowl. I was super proud of her! What we teach them at home is of utmost importance.
Some things we can do at home include:
- Encourage children to get involved in shopping and selecting certain meals
- Let them help in meal preparation
- Be a positive role model because your food choices influence theirs
- Try new foods together
- Encourage a healthy breakfast and have healthy, nutritious snacks on hand
- Keep healthy drinks available like cucumber water, tea, and milk or milk substitutes (almond, coconut, cashew) versus sodas and juices
Additional things we can do for our children’s health include picking foods that:
- Support local, organic, free-range as much as possible
- AVOID trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats)
- AVOID high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and sodas
- AVOID food coloring, additives, and preservatives as much as possible
There are many healthier “junk food” options out there. Organic choices have become more mainstream, and many healthier options are available in conventional stores nowadays. Some of my daughter’s favorite alternatives to junk foods include:
- Honest Kids Organic Juice Packs
- Organic Valley Single-Serve Milk Boxes
- Stretch Island Fruitabu Fruit Roll-Ups
- Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks
- Clif Kid Z-Fruit Rope
- Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies, Organic White Cheddar Popcorn, Cheddar Snack Crackers, and Snack Mix
- Angie’s Boomchickapop Popcorn
- Late July Organic Classic Saltines, Nacho Chipotle Chips
- Horizon’s Organic Good and Go Snack Packs
- Organic Valley Snack Kits
- KIND Protein Bars
- Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops
- Sunspire Sundrops
- Endangered Species Bug Bites
- Justin’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Although these are healthier "junk food" options, these items can still have a good deal of natural sugars in them, so they should be eaten in moderation. They also shouldn't replace our important fruits, vegetables, protein, and healthy fats.
We must take the lead and show our children the way… to healthier options.