Healthy food choices for kids: You choose quality, they choose quantity

When babies begin eating, most of us start out with whole-grain cereals or whole-food plant-based purees, which nutritionally speaking is great. But with the introduction of junk food as they get older (especially once holiday and birthday parties begin), the preference for healthier options diminishes. My children are all different in many ways so when it comes to behavioral strategies what works with one may not necessarily be effective with the other; however, this is one food hack that I've found effective with both of my older two. I'm hesitant to say it works with all kids because 2 children is a weak sample size, but you may find it useful. It's simple: you decide what they eat and they decide how much. For example, last night mine had plenty of sweet potato and avocado (foods they like), and then literally half a Brussels sprout each. Before you condemn me or call me weak for allowing the half Brussels sprout choice, hear me out on the rationale for not pushing the envelope. First, some healthy food (in this case half a Brussels sprout) is better than no healthy food. Second, I find my kids are less resistant to certain directives when they feel they have at least some choice in the matter. Third, fear that overloading them on non-preferred foods could trigger a lifelong resentment for said food. Fourth, it still promotes variety albeit the portion was extremely tiny. And last, there's still a slight chance that they may learn to like the less-preferred foods with small, consistent exposure to them over time. If you're going to try it, I think this strategy is more appropriate when all of the options are healthy. If macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers were the other choices, then I totally get moderating portion size. And if you think this is hogwash and prefer an authoritarian style of moderating your children's food choices there's no judgement here, but I'd be remiss if I didn't share things that have worked for me personally, and with minimal resistance from my children. I recently began an online nutrition course through ACE Fitness and they echoed this sentiment. I'm not saying that makes it right, but it gave me some validation that it was a decent approach. Give it a try and let us know what you think. 

1 comment

  • Hi, Vin, thanks for sharing your experience with your children! I agree with the fact that, if they have ‘some’ control in the decision making, they are ecstatic. Since you had previously discussed ‘habit formation’ , I think it absolutely is important here. If you give your kid 1/2 a brussel sprout 2-3 timesper week, they may come to expect and possibly ENJOY trying a new vegetable the following week. Shame on me for being intimidated in exposing my kids to new foods due to their food allergies, so now, at ages 11 and 12, they are a challenge when exposing to new foods. BUT, they DO eat escarole, spinach, broccoli , and even eggplant (Liam) . Do they eat watermelon, strawberries, or bananas like most kids? NO, but, it’s a work in progress. While this whole social isolation thing has been a challenge, we have not eaten out at all, except pizza, so that’s a positive note! Also, their snacks now include raw carrots and blueberries. Yay! Kudos to my husband , who is home with them right now full time. Looking forward to your next blog post. Wishing you and your family well! AND, our second FAMILY at AMP!!

    Susan Beaver

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