When I was a child growing up in the 80’s, many parents fed their kids frozen TV dinners, meals that came out of a box and processed foods that were fast and convenient.
Today, grocery store shelves are still lined with these types of foods, but most parents know better.
They know more than 1/3 of children are overweight or obese.
They know that most kids don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.
They know what it’s like to offer healthy foods only to have their kids turn up their noses at what’s being served or refuse to eat altogether.
Most parents also know that the foods kids eat and the healthy habits they learn now will affect their health in the future.
If parents know all of this, then why do they still feed their kids junk?
For starters, let’s be honest: there are plenty of things we all know are good for our kids and us but we don’t always do them.
Life gets in the way and we each have our unique set of circumstances and struggles that can make putting our health and our family’s health first a challenge.
However, there are some common beliefs, habits and perceived obstacles parents face that prevent them from feeding their kids healthy food but can easily be overcome with a simple shift in perspective. Here are 6.
1. Healthy eating isn’t that big of a deal
When I talk to other moms about what they feed their kids, it seems that although they know healthy eating is important, they see it more as a short-term, this-would-be-nice- type of goal.
They know it’s important for their kids’ growth and development, but they don’t think it should be a priority.
True, raising kids who are kind, good people is paramount but if we want our kids to be healthy now and well into the future, we much equip them with the information and tools to get there.
2. Healthy eating is time consuming
Servings healthy meals definitely takes time to plan, prep and cook—more time than opening up a box of chicken nuggets or ordering take-out.
If you work, have multiple kids at home, care for an aging parent, and have other obligations, your time is even more limited.
A myth about eating healthy however, is that it’s too time consuming.
But nothing could be further from the truth. With meal planning, batch cooking and sticking to the basics, it is possible to serve kids healthy foods everyday and get dinner on the table (almost) every night.
3. Picky eating never ends
Most kids, especially toddlers, are picky eaters but I think a mistake parents often make is thinking, once a picky eater, always a picky eater.
True, some kids have sensory issues or are extreme picky eaters because of an eating disorder, but most kids can be healthy, adventurous eaters.
When parents think there’s nothing that can be done about picky eating, they usually accommodate their kids by feeding them foods they know they’ll eat.
Yet this creates a cycle: kids eat the same foods over and over again and because they don’t get the opportunity to try new foods, they never do.
It’s important to remember that unless there’s an underlying issue, kids won’t starve and will eat when they’re hungry.
What’s more, when given plenty of opportunities to touch, smell, and taste a variety of foods, kids are capable of enjoying—even craving—healthy foods.
4. Parents don’t eat healthy
Environment plays a big role in raising kids who will accept and enjoy healthy foods.
According to a 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a whopping 90 percent of adults don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables each day.
If parents don’t eat healthy, chances are, they’re not feeding their kids healthy either.
Eating healthy meals together, reaching for healthy snacks and modeling healthy eating habits are all great ways to get your kids to eat healthy too.
5. Sweets are what childhood is made of
In our society, sweets are synonymous with childhood.
In a recent commercial for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Michael Strahan stated something along the lines of, “kids should get candy, not chemo.”
I’m sure you have fond childhood memories of going to the candy store and enjoying your grandmother’s cookies after school. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when we think, they’re kids, let them enjoy, without paying attention to what and how much they’re eating, it could be problematic.
Childhood is one of the most important times to make healthy eating a priority and teach those healthy habits because kids are growing and developing physically, mentally and emotionally.
Modeling for kids how to strike a balance between healthy foods and treats can also prevent them from becoming emotional eaters now and well into the future.
6. Picky eating power struggles are exhausting
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It’s perhaps the hardest job you’ll ever have as you teach, guide and instill values into your children every day.
When you’ve got kids who are picky eaters, parenting becomes even more challenging.
You’re tired of throwing away meals that your kids barely touched, lunches that come home uneaten, and you’re over all the mealtime battles.
I think it’s safe to say all parents give in about something from time to time, but giving in all the time about meals puts your child in control of their health, when that’s actually our job as parents.
We can’t expect perfection (whatever that is), but we can do our best to set up our kids for a healthy future.