Tricking Your Children into Eating Healthy

by MyDadBlog on April 9, 2010

in Advice,Health

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I’ll be the first to admit that neither I or my children have perfect diets.  We practice “everything in moderation” as opposed to the extreme rigidity of some of our friends where everything has to be 100% organic, absolutely no processed foods, nothing in a box, no additives, no fun stuff like ice cream, etc.  However, at the other end of the spectrum is a growing majority in America.  If you look around, there are a lot of overweight kids – a much higher proportion than I recall seeing when I grew up.  And once you put on the weight it’s extremely difficult to take it off.
So, we do worry about our kids, especially one of our sons who started off with some pretty severe gastro issues stemming from a premature birth.  He still hasn’t come around and is a very picky eater.  Unfortunately, he tends to favor snacks like crackers, cookies and sweets over fresh fruits and vegetables if given the choice.  So, we’ve come up with some general guidelines and tricks in an effort to ensure he has the best shot at a healthy stature as he matures, which has lifelong implications:

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup – We cut this out everywhere we can.  Virtually all boxed foods, even if they’re not known as “sweets”, have high fructose corn syrup.  This stuff’s just plain nasty.  Not only does your body not metabolize it the same as natural sugars, but it actually has a different response in the brain while eating.  Ever notice when you’re eating that bag of snacks you could just go on forever and keep digging in?  When you’re ingesting high fructose corn syrup, it tricks your body into not sending/processing the same signal that signifies that you’re getting full and you just keep eating it.  It’s nasty, it’s tricky, and it’s likely one of the primary factors in the current obesity epidemic in America.
  • Fresh Fruits and Vegetables – We try and have fresh food in the fridge at all times to ensure we don’t have to resort to the packaged stuff if the kids are hungry or something happens with the timing of dinner or we take a road trip or whatever.  Even if it’s the same thing (my one son will eat apples all day), it’s way better than a bag of snackfood.
  • Tricking Your Kids – Since our picky eater only eats apples, we trick him into eating other stuff with none other than…the freezer!  For instance, he won’t eat blueberries.  We wanted to get a little diversity in his diet, so my wife tried freezing them.  Now, these frozen blueberries for some reason were some sort of dessert or snack to him.  Even though it’s the same food, he was much more receptive to it.
  • Making Our Own Baby Food – As I’d highlighted in this article on homemade baby food it’s both healthy and a huge money saver for the first year or so of our daughter’s life.  And it’s easy!
  • Avoid the Juice Drinks! – While many juice drinks say “all natural” on the label, it’s often not actually “natural ingredients” by any rational person’s definition.  When you read the label, you see all the added ingredients, not to mention that juice is SUGAR! While eating an apple or strawberry is eating a natural sugar, if your kid’s sipping on juices all day instead of water, they’re ingesting way more sugar than they need.  Not to mention, it’s also bad for their teeth.  We have a few friends whose kids have already had multiple cavities and EVEN A ROOT CANAL for a 3 year old.  Their kids drink juice in a sippy cup around the clock.

There are surely some other tips and tricks and I’d love to hear them.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a diet blog and our kids aren’t freako-natural, but there are some reasonable limits that parents can set and easy to implement changes to childrens’ diets that can ensure they at least have a decent shot at a healthy life in adulthood.  I’m realizing now in my thirties just how difficult it is to take off a few pounds.  Imagine starting off as a teenager 50 pounds overweight!

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