Take a stroll down any grocery store aisle and you'll find a plethora of products marketed to children. Unfortunately, many of these products contain artificial colors, preservatives, and a lot of sugar. Deceptive labeling and confusing nutrition facts compound the problem by making it hard to spot good choices, and many kids are leery of unfamiliar "health foods". How can you introduce good food into your kids' everyday routine? Think about these tips the next time you go shopping.
Keep It Simple
The best snacks for the entire family are whole foods. Whole foods are any food item that hasn't undergone processing. Examples include, fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts, and cheese. Many whole foods can be prepared by kids, making them a natural choice for busy days or babysitters.
Commercially prepared chips, granola bars, and fruit snacks contain a lot of unnecessary ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup, salt, artificial coloring, and preservatives. You can eliminate these ingredients from your family's diet by learning to make simple snacks from scratch. The Internet is an excellent resource for finding recipes for granola, chips, and fruit leather using ingredients you already have around the house. It is also easy to dry fresh fruits and vegetables at home, so you can make produce last longer.
Be Label Aware
Labels that use buzzwords such as "all natural", "multigrain", or "healthy" are not regulated and can mean different things to different producers. Instead of relying on hyped-up advertising, take time to read the ingredient list on products you purchase. Ingredients are listed by weight on the package, so look for whole grain flours, fruits, and vegetables to be near the top on the ingredient list. Also, terms such as high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, sucrose, dextrose, and fructose are all code words for sugar, so try to find products without a lot of added sugar substances.
If you choose to buy organic foods, look for labels that say "certified organic". Many organic producers choose to have their products certified by independent agencies, and buying certified organic products is the only way to ensure you are getting food that is truly free from pesticides, insecticides, and genetic modifications.
Get Picky Eaters Involved
Have a kid that just won't hop on the healthy bandwagon? Try including them in your next shopping trip. Kids are much more likely to eat foods they have selected and prepared themselves. Aim to pick new produce from the grocery store so you can have new taste experiences as a family. If you've never tried a persimmon before, you might get your picky eater to try one if you try it right alongside her.
Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry
Kids can only eat what you have stocked in the house, so removing junk food will force your entire family to try healthy snacks. To keep snack time simple, always have fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain crackers, cheese sticks, granola, and any other minimally processed favorites on hand. This will make it easy for your kids, and any caregivers to make good snack choices.
Switching to healthy snacking is a good entry into changing the food culture in your household. By providing simple, tasty, and healthy snacks for your kids, you are teaching them to care for their bodies. Don't get discouraged if your initial attempts to eat healthier are met with some resistance. Be persistent and your children will find healthy foods they love to eat, and they will develop a healthy habit for life.