Home > Uncategorized > How to Cram Healthy Food into Your Kids in Three Easy Steps

How to Cram Healthy Food into Your Kids in Three Easy Steps

I have been brainwashing my kids for years.  I firmly believe that children are born with a predilection for Kool Aid and Chicken McNuggets.  I don’t claim to understand it, but, as a parent, it has fallen to me to learn how to circumvent it.  I’m not trying to be holier-than-thou and claim that my kids don’t eat any junk food, ever, but I do my darnedest to make it the exception, not the rule.  I’m very proud to say that they’re on board with this plan, which may be my greatest accomplishment as a mom since I learned how to change a diaper while only 10% awake.

I’ve been asked before how I’ve accomplished this feat, so I will share.  Some others haven’t asked, but I know the average child’s eating habits, so I’d encourage you to skim this, anyway. (Not judging…just saying.)

Who's hungry for chicken nuggets?!

Step One:  Vocabulary

The single most helpful tool I’ve had on my journey to eliminating mechanically separated chicken and high fructose corn syrup is vocabulary.  I believe I must offend many at the grocery store, but I’m not talking to them anyway, and people who listen in on other conversations often hear things they don’t like.  Anyway.  When my kids ask me for things that are on my “never-never ever buy” list, we have key words.  Garbage.  Gross.  Junk.  It may seem harsh, but these are words that kids can identify with.  Also, we’ve officially changed the name of any juice drink that is less than 100% juice to “sugar-water.”  I’m not saying that they never drink sugar-water, but again, it’s the exception.  On the occasions that they do drink it, everyone understands that it’s sugar-water, not juice.  If they’re eating processed food, they understand that it’s garbage.  It may be tasty, but it’s still garbage.  I guarantee if you’re fixing yourself a big ol’ plate of garbage and washing it down with sugar-water, you’ll think twice about your choices.  Even if you’re eight.

Step Two:  Read Labels

Most people don’t realize what’s in their food.  I know I sure didn’t.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find good lunch meat that isn’t stuffed full of preservatives?  I’m assuming that’s what they are, I honestly have no idea what half of that crap is.  It’s kind of horrifying and you should never underestimate the effect that knowledge has on behavior.  Every time I learn some new disgusting thing about food processing, I share it with my kids immediately and repeatedly.  When they whine and beg for Lunchables, I make them read me the ingredients.  After each one, I ask, “Does that sound good?  Do you want to eat that?’  Whether they’re really getting the point or just shutting me up, the end result is still less processed food and a lot less begging at the market.

Step Three:  Be Creative!

If you don’t already have basic cooking skills, may I humbly suggest that you subscribe to the Food Network and Cooking Channel?  That’s really all you need.  Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll assume that you do have some cooking skills, because most grown people with children are capable of cooking a little something.  Now use those skills to provide some fun options for your kids!  For instance, I’m always on the lookout for good, easy breakfast options.  I’m sure there are some of you out there who get up a cook a nice, hot breakfast for your kids before work every morning.  I, on the other hand, am having a remarkable morning if my hair isn’t wet when I leave the house.  So breakfast can be an issue.   I recently had the frozen waffle revelation.  Frozen supermarket waffles are not magic.  You can just as easily make a big batch of homemade waffles on a weekend and pop them in the freezer in gallon size bags.  They fit in your toaster just as nicely as the frozen stuff and not only are they more wholesome, but you’re free to add fruit or other additions as you see fit.  While we’re on the subject of waffles, we all realize that pancake syrup is really just corn syrup, right?  I’m not dogging corn syrup (which is lovely and necessary for making caramel), I just really don’t want to eat it straight.  If you’re willing to take a little extra time and use some creativity, you can easily teach your children that homemade is more fun and more delicious than pizza rolls and pop tarts.  We have a touch of advantage, since my husband and I both enjoy cooking, so we do silly things like make homemade hot pockets and corn dogs.  You don’t really have to take it that far, but every little bit does count.  Homemade chicken nuggets are manageable and they also freeze nicely.  It’s good to teach your children that chicken is supposed to have a texture more substantial than mush.

The cornerstone of any healthy breakfast?


I realize that I have left out a very important part of the process, which is, don’t buy junk food in the first place.  Well, that’s highly effective if your children will never go to school, a birthday party or a friend’s house where they will be exposed to such atrocities as Sunny D and Handi-Snacks.  At some point, no matter what you do, you children are going to find out that these things exist and they will be HIGHLY desirable and you’re going to have to deal with it.  I realize that I get somewhat shrill on this subject, but I think it’s not only incredibly important to fill children’s bellies with the nutrients they need, but to also teach them how to make good, intelligent choices for all their lives.  We are raising the next generation of leaders, you know.  Do you want your future fueled by Froot Loops?

photos courtesy of www.thisfoodisgross.com and www.everydayhealth.com

  1. February 19, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    I feel like we are speaking the same language, I am also that mother who says no to my children when they ask for lunchable, repeatedly no less. What is the deal with lunchable? Does every other child at school bring lunchable? Don’t their parents love them? In our house we have three categories, ‘growing foods’, ‘sometimes foods’, and ‘that isn’t food’. Lunchables are clearly under the ‘that isn’t food’ category. I love the sugar-water concept, totally true! You offered useful tips for parents, thank you for sharing.

    • February 19, 2012 at 9:14 pm

      I don’t know about those lunchables, I really don’t. They’re cute, I guess, and Lord knows kids will pull out all the stops to get them. I love your categories, especially “that isn’t food.” Sounds like a list that needs to be posted on my refrigerator! Thanks so much for reading!

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