The Journey from Junk Food to Healthy Eating, Part 1

Whether we parents are working full time out of the house or at home, we’re working hard and juggling a lot including rushing from school to activity to play date on a non-stop treadmill. Endless food battles on top of all the other daily conflicts just add to the exhaustion. We worry about just getting our picky kids to eat something, anything so they don’t starve. So, we give them things they will eat. Mac-and-cheese or nugget, goldfish or gummy fruit, “kid food” takes over the menu.

How to Get Back to a Healthy Diet

The hard truth here is that you can’t just wake up one day and replace the fries with broccoli without a mutiny on your hands. Your best strategy is twofold; education and migration.

First education. We teach our kids to look both ways before crossing the street, not to run with scissors, and especially not to talk to strangers. But when it comes to food, strangers are often having more conversations with our kids than we are.

According to The Kaiser Family Foundation report, “Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States,” based on a national average viewing time of four hours per day for a child, over a year’s time he is exposed to nearly 30,000 commercials. The majority of these are for fast foods and sugary snacks and cereals. Further, the $12 billion spent annually on this type of advertising is only twenty percent of food marketing to kids. The other 80 percent is used for marketing online, in stores and, yes, in schools.

Education: Teaching Your Kids Not to Listen to Strangers

• Limit TV time. Thanks to the miracle of DVRs, DVDs and even just the remote control — once our five-year-olds teach us to use it — we can turn off many of the marketing messages. Or, at least turn the channel to programming that is not funded by food marketing.

• Explain how the foods we eat affect our health. This doesn’t have to be Biology 101, just a quick review of how carrots can make you see far like a super hero or spinach gives you strong muscles.

• Explain to your kids why they can’t believe marketing messages even if their favorite cartoon character is the spokesman. Young children by themselves cannot separate marketing messages from what little surrounding programming is shown. They need you to be their TV Guide.

• Be the role model your kids aren’t getting on the air. Despite the thousands of advertising messages kids get, your influence is the strongest. The number one predictor for how well your kid eats his vegetables is how well you eat yours.

How do you teach your kids about the relationship between food and their health? Next post, look for great tips on the “migration plan” to get your family’s meals back on a healthier track.

Published on: April 28, 2011
About the Author
Photo of Beth Bader

Beth Bader is the coauthor with Ali Benjamin of the acclaimed book, The Cleaner Plate Club, designed to help parents understand picky eating behaviors; where they originate, and how to deal with them creatively to get kids to eat better.

Get Dr. Greene's Wellness RecommendationsSignup now to get Dr. Greene's healing philosophy, insight into medical trends, parenting tips, seasonal highlights, and health news delivered to your inbox every month.
No comments yet. Start the conversation!
Add your comment