How to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy

If we want to prepare our children for the storms of life and a strong future, protecting their health is vitally important. Obesity in America has reached epidemic proportions – even among children. The diseases that often come with obesity, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, are also on the rise. In many cases, these diseases are preventable by making simple lifestyle changes, such as buying and eating healthier foods and increasing you amount of exercise.

The New England Journal of Medicine (March, 2005) reported that the current generation of kids, ages two to fifteen, will have a shorter life span than their parents. This is the first reduction in life expectancy in over two centuries. The reason is due to a sedentary lifestyle and lack of nutrition that leads to obesity, Type II diabetes, and many more lifestyle diseases.

This may sound strong, but I believe that feeding our children poorly is a form of child abuse. Young children do not get to decide what they eat. They have no control over what’s in the pantry or the fridge, nor can they control what restaurants they visit. We, as their parents, are the ones who will be held accountable by God for how we trained our children to eat.

The first step to getting your kids to eat healthier is to model a healthy lifestyle before them. A strong role model and a positive attitude about healthy food goes a long way. Children want to impress and emulate their parents, especially at a young age. So, start when they are young – the earlier the better! Encourage healthy eating among the entire family (mom & dad included) with praise and extra privileges. Use fun phrases like “super foods” and “bionic berries” to encourage children to make healthy choices. When they are older, encourage them that right choices with food can lead to many great benefits. And, remember that truth yourself when you feel like giving up on the effort to get your kids to eat healthy!

You are the parent, therefore you are the boss! So, the next best choice you can make for your child’s health is to stop buying foods that are not good for them – especially “kid-friendly” snacks and fast food. These items are loaded with preservatives, artificial colors, and sugars. Refined white sugars and high fructose corn syrup are often the first or second ingredient in many foods marketed to children. Fake sugars, like saccharine and aspartame, are sometimes included to make foods appear as a “healthier” alternative. But, they are actually worse due to their chemical content. Excess sugars, additives, and preservatives can cause attention deficit issues in children. At my karate school, for example, parents who eliminated high sugar foods from their child’s diet saw greater improvements in behavior and fewer problems with ADD or ADHD.

Now you may be thinking, Wow! What am I going to give my kids to eat if I cut out all the normal kinds of food that kids love? Relax! Kids will learn to eat whatever you put in front of them. And, as they develop a taste for healthy food, they will eat a wider variety of it. If your children are already junk food junkies, then introducing healthy food to them will take a little time and persistence. There is always a healthier alternative for every junk food they eat.

For example, try serving plain potato chips or tortilla chips instead of the heavily colored or flavored types. Exchange instant oatmeal that comes in the pre-flavored, single-serve pouches for the real deal that you cook on the stove. You can even add your own honey, cinnamon, blueberries, or bananas. Also, gradually reduce and then eliminate soft drinks from your home. Your children should be drinking filtered water more than anything else.

Start off young children with plenty of fresh vegetables. For optimum health, select organically grown, raw vegetables as the bulk of a diet. Cut up carrots, celery, and broccoli for quick snacks. Add a little raw spinach to a homemade fruit smoothie. And, make vegetables a significant part of every meal.

If you are having a tough time getting your kids to eat their vegetables, keep trying different ones until you find a few that they can tolerate. Tell them “Eat your vegetables first, and then I’ll serve you some mashed potatoes (or some other food that they like).” Or, you can tie it to a privilege, such as playtime, video games, or a movie.

Once vegetables are a regular part of your child’s diet, offer them fresh fruit. Slice up apples and oranges, and keep bananas, grapes, and berries on hand. Fruit is naturally sweet and a delicious alternative to prepackaged, high-sugar snacks.

Indulge in dessert only a few days a week. If you and your family are daily dessert eaters, call for a “sugar fast” in your home and see if you can all go for a week without sweets. Then, start back with just two or three treats a week. For healthy desserts, try strawberries with real whipped cream or baked bananas sprinkled with cinnamon and pecans.

To increase your kid’s motivation to eat healthy, take them to the supermarket and teach them how to look for fresh foods that are full of color and life. Let them pick and choose new foods to taste. As they get older, educate your family about the way food companies spend millions of dollars creating a taste that hooks people into buying their product. You can also watch movies, such as “Food Inc.” or “Super Size Me.” If that doesn’t convince you to eat right, nothing will.

As someone who helps people StormProof™ their lives, I find that the food we eat plays a major role in facing and overcoming difficult challenges. So, if you want to help storm-proof your kids to weather the future, build a healthy diet into their lifestyle. Their defense against disease, energy level, ability to concentrate, and quality of sleep will improve when they’re eating better. As you eat healthy along with your kids, you’ll reap the benefits as well.

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