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Back to School… Three Tips to Help Kids Eat Healthier Food (and Not Even Know It!)

Do your kids seem to be magnetically drawn to junk food, wherever they go?

Does their lunch box arrive home with the healthiest food remaining, barely touched, if at all?

Do you want to ensure that your kids are able to enjoy the pleasure of nutritiously healthy food and lifestyle habits, but just aren’t sure how?

If you said “Yes” to any of the above questions, you are not alone.

With the current food supply as it is—with a majority of the food choices at standard grocery stores being filled with artificial colours, flavours, sugar, MSG, and other unhealthy fillers—the world of food that our kids are growing up believing is good for them is really skewed. Even worse, many of the substances that are used in the most popular foods are now being found to have a similar effect on the brain as some of the most highly addictive street drugs. Between that physiological reality of the food products themselves and the overwhelming peer influence to consume these products, it’s no wonder our kids are finding themselves overindulging in a lot of unhealthy food. The rise in childhood obesity and diabetes in North America is a testament to this sad reality.

The great news is that there are three simple ways to empower kids to eat healthier food that are not shame-focused or difficult, and are also really fun to do.

Three Tips for Healthier (and Happier) Kids…

Garden With Your Kids:

When kids are involved in the planting and nurturing of the food on the family’s home patio or in the garden, they are more inclined to eat (and appreciate) the beautiful food that springs from the earth. In addition to the obvious health benefits this offers, the benefits of increased awareness of food sourcing, lifeskill enhancement, and environmental awareness are also great rewards. Winter gardening is an especially fun activity to do with kids, since after seed planting in the fall, the winter weather usually leads to forgetting about the garden, making the spring sprouts and harvests even more exciting to discover.

Cook With Your Kids:

As with gardening, kids are more likely to want to eat food that they prepare themselves than food that is made for them. They are more invested in the process and are also curious about what they have been able to create. Empowering and confidence-building, the benefits of teaching kids about the magic of creating meals from real whole foods is good for their mind, spirit, and body as well.

Make Irresistible Desserts

(That Are Much Healthier Options than the Junk Food Options that They Otherwise Typically Would Want to Eat)

The societal belief is that in order for food to taste delicious, it must be unhealthy (e.g. filled with sugar, gluten, butter, etc.). So, when you give your kids crazy-delicious desserts that don’t have any of those ingredients in them, you can only imagine their surprise and delight to relish in delectable delights, especially if the recipes are easy enough for them to make themselves!

At my book launch last September, a 5-⁠year-old named Harumi demonstrated how easy it was to make the baked cinnamon bananas from the book that all of the attendees at the event were joyously devouring. Everyone’s hearts melted while watching this adorable little girl so focused and proud to be learning and demonstrating how to create something special that others could enjoy sharing.

While it is true that desserts may not have the same amount of nutritive value as some of the more savoury dishes we would love to see our kids also enjoying, it is a step in the right direction—a buy-in to help them with their transitioning process. As a psychologist, I know all too well the importance of meeting ourselves where we are, and then gradually taking steps in the direction we want to move towards. Our kids are no different.

All-or-nothing thinking typically leads us to a very familiar and undesirable destination: the feeling of failure. The more we can foster feelings of success, fun, and curiosity, the more likely we can support our kids along their life paths towards greater health, vitality, and happiness.