Kids & Healthy Eating: The Epic Divide

Do you feel like a war is waging between you and your kids over what goes on their plates? Maybe you’ve given up entirely. Sometimes it feels easier to give your kid what they’re demanding in exchange for a few minutes of peace and quiet around the house. Screw the broccoli…

Are you cooking two meals – one for you, and one for your kids – and driving yourself crazy? And we get it – you think why should the kids have to eat this way, when they don’t have a weight problem?

But what if you’re setting up your kids up for the same pain and frustration with their weight that you have now? Or worse, what if you’re hurting their development and don’t even know it?

One of the biggest challenges we hear from our clients is how hard it can be to translate what they learn here about food and health into how their family eats. Their kids don’t like it, so they end up cooking two meals. And that inevitably fails, because let’s be real – who has time to cook two dinners every night?! (I can barely handle one sometimes)

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? …You’re rushing out the door to get the kids to soccer practice, but they didn’t eat the lunch you packed, so you have to stop at Subway… The only breakfast you can get them to eat is a microwaved burrito… No time to make dinner, so you get Chinese or pizza delivered. But its ok, right? Junk food’s fine for them. They don’t have a weight problem. Yet.

Something else we hear is that many people feel like they have to keep junk around for their kids. They say: “My kids don’t need to eat like this,“ (meaning CambiatiClean).

But we have to play devil’s advocate here. As if children, barring a weight problem, have no need for healthy food. One could even argue that children have even more of a need for healthy food. Is a diet high in junk food the best fuel for growing kids? Sure, maybe they don’t have a visible weight problem (yet). But do you want to teach your kids that’s the only reason one might want to eat nourishing foods?

Don’t you want to teach them good habits early so they can live a long, healthy, and vibrant life? Sure, many of us grew up eating junk food. But think about how hard it was to change that, to release the habits we learned as kids. If you could help them avoid that later in life, wouldn’t you? Guess what. You can.

And beyond weight – what about kid’s brain function, cognitive abilities, and mood? The brain is extremely energy dependent – it needs plenty of good fats, proteins, and antioxidants to function properly. Ever noticed that your kid goes bananas after gorging on sweets at a birthday party? Chips, pizza, pasta, pretzels, etc. aren’t much better just because they aren’t full of straight up sugar. Processed foods don’t have the nutrients our brains need to function well.

Side note… Have you heard of the Feingold Program? It’s a diet designed to help a child diagnosed with ADHD and is free of artificial colors, certain additives and preservatives. On it, 70% of kids and adults improve and 50% of those folks don’t need any other intervention. Still think your kids “don’t need to eat this way”?

And we already know that on a broader scale, statistics on kids’ health in the U.S. are not looking good. 4 out of 10 American children are overweight or obese. Conditions like ADHD and childhood diabetes are skyrocketing. Kids don’t play outside, favoring instead to stay indoors where there are plenty of outlets, and plenty of screens to keep them occupied (and sedentary) for hours.

And as kids get older, their access to different types of food outside the home increases. With a plethora of addictive junk food and sedentary activities with their electronic devices, American kids are being set up for disaster. Sugary beverages, fast food, and processed foods are completely devoid of nutrients that are crucial for their physical growth, health, and cognitive development. Of course, it’s easy to say “Start your kids early with healthy habits,” but a few years in, many parents feel they’ve missed the boat and give up. Don’t worry – you haven’t missed your chance! “First Bites” author Bee Wilson has found success with her strategies to change the minds of picky eaters of all ages. If a 60-year old with entrenched opinions about food can change their minds, so can your kids.

And if you’re thinking “Yes, those statistics are awful, I don’t like what’s happening – but what can I do? My kids won’t eat anything but mac ‘n cheese,” that’s an ok place to start. This won’t change overnight.

Here are a few tips that have been proven the most effective at getting kids on-board with clean eating.

1. Take things slowly and introduce new foods to your kids one at a time. That way, they won’t feel overwhelmed. Plus, kids have to try things more than once. Some experts say give it 15 tries. (Yes, you read that right.) But c’mon – you probably didn’t like coffee or booze the first time you tasted it, either.

2. If you’re at a standstill with trying new foods, try a game like Crunch a Color to keep things light and fun.

3. Get them involved with meal planning and prep! Just like adults, kids need to feel that their opinion and efforts are valued. By getting them involved in the kitchen, you will help boost their confidence, independence, problem-solving, and culinary skills.

4. Respect their likes and dislikes. Ask them what types of vegetables, fruit, proteins, and fats (such as olives, coconut, and avocado) they enjoy. Give them options and plan some meals together.

5. Avoid using sweets or other treats as bribery/rewards. This emphasize the value of “treats” and devalues more healthy foods. This pattern can also lead to the development of emotional eating and seeking treats to soothe unpleasant feelings.

6. Offer new foods away from meal times and treat the experience more like exploration than a Cold War at the dinner table. Offering new foods when they’ve come home from school hungry in the afternoon works well for some.

7. How are you eating yourself? What kind of attitudes are you showing them about how you feel eating healthy? Do you say “back to this healthy eating stuff because I need to lose weight”? Kids are so perceptive. Even if they don’t respond – they hear it and internalize it. File it away with their other learning experiences about food.

Let’s be real, you want the best for your kids, so why shouldn’t that include what kind of food they eat? Guiding them toward healthy habits will provide them with good health, vibrancy, and an awareness and appreciation of what nutritious food actually is! Ultimately, it comes down to you as the parent to set the standards. You buy the food, you decide what goes into your kitchen. Let’s say you have made the conscious decision to eat better and don’t eat junk foods yourself. So why have those kinds of foods in your home at all? It will be easier for you and your goals if your kitchen is full of beautiful, whole foods and not processed junk. You’ll help your kids develop the taste for nutritious foods while avoiding potential food addictions and health repercussions that may develop later in life.
The habits you help them develop now will determine their eating habits and health as adults. You are armed with nutritional enlightenment, you have access to an arsenal of health food stores, and you have an army of Cambiati coaches at your back. We’re not saying it will be easy. But it will be worth it. You can do this!

Ready to take action but not sure where to start? Sign up for a Cambiati Class now and on your first session bring some recipes to makeover or talk about strategies for cleaning the junk out of your family’s diet.

Once you schedule your session, here are some resources for further research and to help you stay inspired: