Most children are around processed junk foods quite often. These foods are in their friend’s lunches, they are advertised on TV, they are in the vending machine at their gymnastics gym, and they see adults eat them. Anything would be interesting to a child if it were around as much as these foods are around. To add to it, processed junk foods are in colorful fun packaging and have sweet and sugary or salty and crunchy taste.
We all know that processed junk foods like chips, crackers, cookies, white bread, sugary jelly, and candy are not healthy. They do not promote overall wellness and do not support the growing bodies of our children. As a child, this is not an easy concept to understand so as parents it’s our job to minimize or eliminate these foods from their diet.
My children (ages 4 and 8 months) have had very little processed junk food in their lives. Their exposure to these foods is much more limited then most children. My 4 year old attends a school that does not have any junk food, she watches little to no television, we skip most of the inner isles at the grocery store, and her parents don’t eat it. There was one day last summer, she was being watched by a family member who had the television on in the background and there was a commercial for Honey Nut Cheerios – a food item she has never seen before. The next time we went grocery shopping, she saw Honey Nut Cheerios in the shopping cart of another customer and she started saying she wanted it. I explained that we don’t buy cereal because it is not nutritious – and then came the tears.
Out of Sight Out of Mind
Children pick up on everything, they are so impressionable. If junk food is all around them all the time it is nearly impossible to keep them from eating it. It might not be possible for you to limit their exposure to these foods at school but you can limit the exposure at home.
- Don’t purchase foods that you don’t want your children to eat.
- Even more importantly, don’t eat the foods you don’t want your child to eat. If you are eating junk food, they will eat junk food. If you eat healthy foods, they will be more inclined to do so.
- Avoid the inner isles at the grocery store as much as possible. Most of the healthy foods are on the perimeter of the store.
Make Healthy Versions of Their Favorites
If your children are already hooked on junk it will be a slow process to get it out completely. A great way to start that transition is to start making healthier versions of foods they already like to eat.
- Make homemade pizzas with organic ingredients
- Make homemade granola bars
- Make a healthier peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Buy healthy bread or make your own bread, use organic almond butter, and sugar free fruit preserves or apple or banana slices in place of sugary jelly.
- Bake homemade muffins with natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup
Add in Some Nutrient Dense Foods
Sometimes children crave junk food because they are not getting enough nutrients in general. If a child eats a lot of refined carbohydrates and other processed food, they are getting very little healthy nutrients like vitamins and minerals from those foods. It might seem like a child is always hungry for more food but they are really hungry for more nutrition. Add in some highly nutrient dense foods into your child’s diet like leafy greens, root vegetables, healthy oils (like coconut oil) and proteins from plant and/or animal sources. The cravings for all the junk food may subside if they receive more of the nutrients their growing body requires.
Make Healthy Foods Fun
Part of the appeal of processed foods are that they are fun. They are packaged with bright colors, the commercials are interesting, and the foods might come in animal shapes. Healthy food can be just as fun as those junk foods.
- If your child loves pizza, start a family pizza night tradition and make homemade pizzas together. Let the children put on their own sauce and veggie toppings or make their own individual pies.
- Cut vegetables into animal shapes with these shaped vegetable cutters.
- Make homemade granola bars or protein bars like these into fun shapes with cookie cutters or baking molds
Getting rid of junk food completely takes time. Try some of these ideas to start the process and ease your way into it slowly. Going cold turkey is no fun for you or for them. In a few weeks, I am opening up sign ups for my new program, The Family Spring Cleanse, which is a program for families who want to get rid of junk food and start on a path towards a healthier diet and lifestyle. If you are struggling with junk food, this program will be a great fit for your family. I encourage you to join us!
What is the hardest junk food for you to get out of your life? and What do you think you can do to start minimizing it now? Please share in the comments.
Thank you, as always, for reading and commenting!