Thursday, August 15, 2013

Making Healthy Food Fun!

Junk Food Beckons Kids

As parents, we are at a total disadvantage when it comes to teaching our kids about healthy eating. We are fighting against a food and beverage industry that spends 1 million dollars AN HOUR marketing their products to our youth. Every hour of every day. (source)  How are we supposed to compete with that?

Especially when the junk food marketed for kids is so FUN! It come in bright packaging, fun shapes, and might even have their favorite character on the box or come with an awesome prize. Research has found that when the exact same food items were put into different packages, about 50% of the children thought the snacks from packaging with characters tasted better than snacks from plain packaging. It was also found that when given a choice, two-thirds of the kids preferred a snack with images of cartoon celebrities on the front.(source) These companies spend massive amounts of money on advertising because it works brilliantly!  They have hired the best of the best to make sure our kids beg us to buy them the wort of the worst.

And just for the parents, they have 'healthy' sounding claims across the front like 'Whole Grain,' 'Fat Free,'  and 'Vitamin Fortified,'so that we feel better about saying yes to our children's request for Dora fruit snacks. 

Making Healthy Food Fun!
Whole Grain! Vitamin D! Iron Fortified!
But at what is it doing to our children's health? 
"Since 1980, overweight rages have doubled among children, and tripled among adolescents. More then one out of every three children born in 2000 is expected to get diabetes in their lifetime." (source)
That's some scary stuff right there! Our children are being set up for some serious health conditions as adults, and sometimes much earlier.

You may be thinking, "well I grew up eating much of the same stuff, and I'm fine," but in reality, it wasn't the same. Today, 20% of the calories eaten by a child between 12-18 years old comes from fast food compared to just 6.5% in the late 70's. When I was a child we ate fast food, but it wasn't daily, as it is for many kids today.

I drop my kids off at daycare and see other 2 and 3 year old children sitting down with their breakfast of donuts or drive-thru egg sandwiches! For now, my boys are okay eating their oatmeal, but I imagine that eventually the things their peers are eating will start to appeal to them. I can set a good example and make the best choices for my kids, but eventually they are going to be faced with making their own choices. 

So how can you make healthy choices just as appealing (or more!) than the packaged, processed options? Make it FUN! 

This is where the big companies excel. They make their products fun, and kids gravitate to that. We were in the grocery store the other day going down the cereal aisle and the boys were pointing and asking for products totally based on what the box looked like. We walked away with a good cereal in a boring box, and they were not happy. While you can't make boring cereal boxes any more fun, you can make the way you serve it fun.  

1. Fun Serving Dishes: I pick up fun dishes and serving containers whenever I see an end of season clearance. We have quite the collection now, but if it makes them excited enough to eat veggie sticks and hummus, it is worth it.

Making Healthy Food Fun!
2. Fun Presentation: It doesn't have to be an elaborate cartoon character made out of finely shaved vegetables and seaweed, but find a way to present healthy food in fun ways!

It only takes a few seconds to arrange raisins into a smiley face.
Making Healthy Food Fun!  
And do you know what is more fun than yogurt in a bowl with some fruit on top? A banana split for breakfast! Put the banana on the bottom, plain yogurt on top like ice cream scoops, and top with fruit and honey or maple syrup! Viola! A super fun breakfast.

Making Healthy Food Fun!
3. Favorite Character Inspired: I got my kids to
 drink green smoothies because we started calling them Hulk Smoothies. We now have an entire collection of Super Hero inspired smoothies that I will whip up on a regular basis for my boys {sneaking in super foods or green veggies}. They think this is the coolest thing!

Making Healthy Food Fun!  

4. Fun Food Experiences: We have a little organic farm by our house, and when we first moved to this area, we went down and signed up to take a tour. While walking through the vegetable patches, the tour guides offered my boys raw Rainbow Swiss Chard, and they ate it. Raw. Right there in the garden. I didn't have to hide it or blend it or dress it up.
Making Healthy Food Fun!

Another trick I have tried is to introduce new foods as a game. We set up a table in the back yard with a white table cloth, and I prepared a couple new foods and covered them. They sat at the table, and we uncovered and tried each new food one at a time. We talked about how it looked, how it tasted, if we liked it, and if we would buy it again. They weren't all winners, but that's okay. At least they tried everything, and had fun doing it!

Making Healthy Food Fun!

What are your favorite ways to make healthy foods fun?

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