Posted on 09/09/2014 at 12:00 AM by Embria Health Sciences
By Lisa Metzgar, PhD
School is back in session, which means our children need good nutrition to keep their brains and bodies functioning properly all day. So many kids are being sent to school with no breakfast or on a sugar bomb. No lie…I saw a child walking to school eating a popsicle and the worst part of it all? He was with his parents! Sugar without any nutritional benefit whatsoever….are you kidding me?
That’s why it’s so important this time of year to have a conversation with your children about how to make healthy food choices. Laying the foundation down together when they are young will help set them up for life.
So, how do we help our children make healthy choices? In my family, we start by not having too much junk food in the house. It’s easiest to control diet if there aren’t too many bad choices to make in the first place. So, when I do give my daughter choices they are relatively healthy options. One example, for breakfast she has a choice of eggs (fresh from our own chickens) and a whole grain toast with fruit, oatmeal, a smoothie that she loves to make herself or occasionally cereal (not the sugar bomb kind). She makes her own lunch and has control over what she puts in it, but she knows that there are certain things that will be included. We have whole grain bread, a source of protein, a fresh piece of fruit, sometimes a yogurt with very little sugar (you have to watch labels on even what is considered healthy foods), and usually some kind of healthy option for chips. There is no sweet that goes to school and water is the choice for a drink.
Not all children eat breakfast at home or bring their own lunch to school. So, how do you get your child to eat healthy when you don’t have control? Unfortunately, most kids will choose the unhealthy options. I recently saw a report about our school lunch system and it was sad to see that most of the “healthy” options get sent back to the district. My daughter rarely buys school lunch, but when she does she is proud to tell me that she at least made a few healthy choices among the unhealthy choices they have to offer. That’s a part of the conversation that’s so important for parents and children to have in order for this all to work.
As for healthy options at school, for example, they seem to always have the choice of a “shaker salad”. This is a salad in a cup that you add the dressing to and shake up. They always have a choice of fresh fruit as well. At least I know she is choosing as many of the whole food options as she can. It is ok with me that she also chooses some of the more unhealthy options like fries and pizza because I know that it is a rare occasion where she isn’t eating the best food. More often than not as she gets older, she doesn’t even ask for the school lunch anymore.
I’ve discovered that if you don’t know the “why” of making a healthy choice then you are more likely to make a poor choice. Many years ago, before I was educated in nutrition, I worked in a hot and dusty soils engineering lab. Every afternoon I would go to the local convenience store and get a huge soda. I had no idea what it was doing to me. When I learned exactly what soda did to our bodies, to our health, I quit cold turkey. To this day I don’t drink soda and I don’t let my daughter drink it.
To sum up everything I’ve learned with my family, here are a few short tips to empower your children make healthy choices:
- Educate yourself first, and then educate your children as part of an on-going conversation. Don’t lecture them, but show them what poor nutrition can do to their health, especially sugar. I use video (my daughter is big on YouTube). There is great information out there if you just do a search for it. Make it a learning experience and empower your children with information.
- Don’t keep junk food in the house. This eliminates the problem at its source.
- Teach your children what a healthy choice looks like. Some children have no idea.
- Cook with your children. Show them that healthy choices can also taste good. Explore different recipes and introduce them to new foods. If they don’t like a new food, don’t get too discouraged! Try cooking it a different way next time. Sometimes it takes a few tries of a new food before it is accepted.
- Empower your children with choices…just make them healthy choices. Whole foods, good quality protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. You can even have desserts…just choose whole ingredients and make it yourself instead of buying overly processed, sugary, fat and salty foods.
- Teach your children about the benefits of natural supplementation. Your children will on occasion make unhealthy choices and there may be days they don’t get all the daily vitamins, minerals and other nutrients they need. Teach them to look for quality, science-based supplements like EpiCor that can help them bridge those gaps and keep them strong and healthy.
We live in a world where it seems far easier to make unhealthy choices than healthy ones. We as parents have a lot of control and influence over food choices. With a little effort, we can teach our children to make healthy choices so they don’t have to suffer with poor health. It is sad to me that we are such an unhealthy nation and it is mostly due to our lifestyle choices that start very young. Even our school system is offering junk to our children. You have complete control over your nutrition choices and there is so much research out there to help us lead a healthy and happy life. If you don’t have your health…nothing else matters.