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Getting Your Kids to Eat Healthier Foods

Updated on June 28, 2008

As a parent I realize how hard it is to get children to eat healthy. Children are bombarded everywhere they go with advertising about all sorts of unhealthy stuff. What kid doesn't like fruit rolls-ups or gummies? Not only are these things mostly High Fructose Corn Syrup, but they are also loaded with artificial colors. Most foods that are targeted at children are full of things that are downright terrible for your body. So what can we do to get our kids to eat healthier?

About six months ago I decided that I would try to only purchase foods that did NOT have High Fructose Corn Syrup in them. Let me be the first to say that this is easier said than done. Especially when it comes to snacks for kids. High Fructose Corn Syrup, otherwise known as HFCS, is a very cheap artificial sweetener. I have spent a lot of time reading labels in grocery stores trying to find items that my kids will eat that do not contain HFCS. Triscuits and Dannon yogurt are two items that have become standbys at my house. Yes it is difficult to find items without HFCS in them, but once you find foods that work it is easy to keep buying them.

I just finished reading a great book by Dr Sears called The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood. This book was filled with good nutritional information and ideas and recipes. I can't say that I will be incorporating all the ideas I read about, as some seem extreme, but it was very much a worthwhile read. According to Dr Sears, if you can only make three changes towards eating healthier, do not buy any foods that contain HFCS, hydrogenated oils (Trans fats) or any color additive such as red #40. Reading this book has renewed my goal of avoiding HFCS and now hydrogenated oils. I already don't really buy foods that contain color additives, so that one should be pretty easy for us.

Here are some other ways you can help your children eat healthier.

1. Quit buying the junk. If it isn't in the house, then they can't eat it - at least most of the time. I have found it more difficult to avoid the bad foods when we are out at kid's activities, parties and restaurants. I can refuse to bring the bad stuff into my house though. And my kid certainly can't force me to go through the McDonalds drive through.

2. Kids will eat when they are hungry. If you don't have the junk foods in the house, then they will be forced to eat the healthier stuff you do have in the house or even in the car. When we are on a long drive and the kids are hungry they will pretty much eat whatever I brought. If I make sure it is a decent healthy option this is great way to get them to try new things and eat healthy foods.

3. Serve more fruits and vegetables and don't get discouraged if your child rejects something the first time it is introduced. It usually takes many, many times of seeing something and trying it for a child to develop a taste for something.

4. Cook from scratch more. One of the ways I have successfully avoided the bad things in food is to cook things myself. I certainly can't add my own HFCS. Buying basic ingredients and creating snacks and meals from those will help you avoid the bad stuff. It is usually the processed foods that are so filled with bad for you things.

5. Make eating healthier fun. My kids love it when I put a big plate of cut up fruits and veggies on the table and they love it even more when I have a dip for them to eat it with. Even something as simple as honey or peanut butter is enticing for kids. They just love to dip foods into sauces. You can also cut up fruits and vegetables into interesting shapes or arrange them on a plate in a special design, such as a smiley face, train or animal.

6. Make a point to avoid certain things and you will go a long way towards improving your kid;s health. Try picking the 5 least healthy items your children eat and eliminate them. Just don't replace them with something else just as unhealthy.

7. Don't drink soda. I quit drinking soda in college when it started upsetting my stomach so much, so this is an easy one to avoid at my house. I know that many, many people are addicted to it though. On pages 224 and 225 of The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood there is a list of reasons why you shouldn't drink soda. I read them to my son, who always wants it, and he really understood why he shouldn't drink it anymore. Soda weakens your bones, 1 can contains 10 teaspoons of sugar, it makes you fat, it comes in many colors (remember we are supposed to avoid the color additives), and it gives you cavities (the acid damages the enamel which protects your teeth from cavities). Try to find some alternatives like iced tea (this is how I get my caffeine) healthy juices, WATER, or milk.

8. Grow your own fruits and vegetables. Kids love to grow things and are much more willing to try eating foods that they planted, watered and harvested. If you don't want to grow your own, try going to a pick your own place. They still get the enjoyment of harvesting and will be more willing to eat as a result.

9. Model healthy eating. Kids love to copy their parents and if they see you eating chips and drinking soda that will be what they want. If they see you snacking from a plate of celery and peanut butter they will want that too.

10. If your kids are older (my son is 10) you can talk to them about food and what is good for you and what is not. Get some books from the library or do some research together on the internet in order to show your child what eating poorly does to our bodies over time.

Getting our kids to eat healthier is a challenge, but it is one that can be overcome. Try making small changes or one change at a time. Stop buying the fruit roll ups for the lunch box or get a different brand of yogurt or graham crackers - one with better ingredients. Whatever steps you make to help your children eat healthier will help them lead a healthy lifestyle. Little things do add up.


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    • proudgrandpa profile image

      proudgrandpa 9 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Hurray for you. You are soooooo right, it isn't easy. As a grandparent I only get one or two days to redirect the grandbabies but I do send them home asking questions. (Isn't that fun?). One snack that my grandkids take to is low salt pretzels. That is my favorite snack.

      Some people think Diet drinks are the answer. The jury is still out but most information pionts to these products doing more harm than good.

      Your kids are lucky that they have a Mom that really loves them. Keep up the good stuff and thanks for sharing it with us. NEIL

    • profile image

      kevin hayden 9 years ago

      Hi Jennifer,

      and the news is not good! Things are going to get a lot worse due to high corn prices etc. Companies that use natural and artificial sweeteners are now developing new sweeteners with a higher intensity and no natural content due to the high cost of natural sugars.

      Thanks for the informative blog!


    • wannabwestern profile image

      Carolyn Augustine 9 years ago from The Land of Tractors

      Hi Jennifer,

      I was shocked when I discovered how much HFCS is in apple juice and other juices. Don't know why people need to add this to sweeten an already sweet food. We have cut back drastically on drinking juices because they are so expensive when bought without all the bad stuff, and so bad for you when purchased from less expensive sources. My in-laws have the great fortune of living next to an apple orchard, so they juice a lot with gleaned apples. Great food for thought, as always.