It’s that time of the year, back to school shopping, which normally includes a new lunch box (at least that is what they use to call it back in the day. I wish I still had my Scooby Doo lunch box that would probably be worth something nowadays.)
Breakfast and lunch are the 2 most important meals of the day (for everyone, but especially for our kids). They need to have the proper fuel to maintain a constant energy level at school so they can perform their best. They will be more focused and retain more while at school and will come home in a more relaxed and less famished way. My kids use to come home like hungry bears and the quick fix to that was to give them a quick snack, which as it turns out raises their blood sugar fast and turns out to cause a lot of health problems.
It has always been my responsibility to pack my kids lunch. Unfortunately, I have not always done the best job for them. In fact, it makes me a little sick thinking back to what I use to feed my kids. It would explain a lot of the health, behavioral and physical issues we experienced during that time. The good news is that with some small changes you can avoid these problems with your kids.
Here are some of the things I used to pack for them: tube of yogurt, cookies, chips, fruit roll-up, apple juice, granola bar, apple and maybe a sandwich. It was not all of this at once, but always some combination of these types of items. Any combination of these type of things (except for the apple and maybe the sandwich) are a disaster for your child. I think most health experts now agree that over time, these types of foods will cause serious health problems and to some extent could be considered chronically toxic to the human body. I think we are seeing the results now with the increase of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and so on.
So how do you make your kids eat healthier? That is a good question. The problem is that you are going up against large corporations the spend hundreds of millions of dollars EACH, marketing these products to your kids (don’t even get me started on this topic). Your kids do not necessarily care about nutrition, they just want something that tastes good and has a cool wrapper with lots of colors. How can regular old fruit and veggies compete with that? The answer is they can’t.
The trick is if you do not want your child to have problems down the road, you have to change their habits and get them eating healthier options. In our household, this didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow process that occurred over time. Our kids’ systems were addicted to these types of foods and to cut them out cold turkey would not be the best long term approach. So, here are some tips to make that transition:
1) the talk – give your kids the talk. Educate your kids on what is healthy and what is not and what the effects of eating a poor diet are and why you want to help them eat in a more healthier way so that when they start seeing different in things their lunches they will understand why you are making these changes.
2) the ol’ switcharoo – For the most part, there are healthier versions of everything we currently eat. This was our first step. We took the things we were familiar with and liked and bought the healthier version. To do this you will most likely have to go to a health food store to find them because you won’t have much luck in your standard chain grocery store. Here in San Diego, Jimbo’s is a great place to find these items locally. Whether it is crackers or macaroni &cheese, there are some better options out there. It is all about the ingredients. The general rule of thumb is pick things that have as few ingredients as possible. Make sure your child can pronounce them (meaning they should not sound scientific in any way).
3) the bedazzle – Bedazzle your kids with interesting and new foods. Your kids are bored with apples, oranges and bananas! Buy some fun and interesting things like kiwi, papaya, mangos and pineapple. Same with snacks and lunch items – find things that are new and interesting. Kids love to try new things. They may not like everything, but keep trying.
4) the decision maker – Make your kids part of the decision process. If they get to choose between a bunch of healthy choices, they are more inclined to eat whatever it is. So take them to the health food store and let them pick out whatever fruit, vegetable or health food item they like.
5) the monkey see monkey do – Oh this one may sting a little. Over time kids do what they see you do. If you eat the Oreo, so will they. If you eat healthy, so will they. (This plays out way beyond food, but that is not what this article is about!)
Well, this should give you a good start on moving your kids towards more healthy eating habits and provide them some more nutrient-dense foods to help them through their day! You’ll be amazed at how tiny changes lead to huge transformation over time. Don’t stress out about forcing your kids to eat healthy. Instead, make it fun. By working together as a family, we can all improve our habits and our health.