All responsible parents agonize over the foods children want to eat. How do we balance their nutritional needs with the incessant pointing in supermarket and begging in kitchens that we constantly experience? Below are common sense nutritional tips for foods kids should not eat which are remarkably similar to the types of foods adults should not eat.
These early years are formative ones for the human body, a time when bones develop and the immune system is fed. More important the psychology of eating healthy is developed early in one’s life. If your kids eat junk food at home, chances are they will eat junk food throughout their lives. They may develop poor health that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Generally children can eat a greater portion of fatty foods in their diets, but not to excess. Their bodies need to grow, but other than that kids should be eating the same sort of healthy foods that we all know are good for our own diets. In fact parents set the example. Just like reading at home or smoking, they will copy your own habits like tiny sponges of learning.
Should kids eat junk food? No. Neither should you. “Junk food” typically contains an alarming amount of unhealthy fats and sugars. If you eat junk food your kids will want to also. But you have to know junk food when you see it, and the only real way to know it is to learn from reading packaging labels.
Should kids eat foods high in sugar? No, but often the packaging is deceptive. In particular breakfast cereals are often packaged as “healthy” but in reality are very high in sugar content. Turn over the box and read the labels. The kids cannot do it for you. You may be surprised at the amount of sugar in typical breakfast cereals including the all-grains.
Do feed them fruit. All fruit contains sugars but some sugar is necessary for the body and unavoidable in a normal healthy diet. Many fruits are also a good source of dietary fiber. Diets high in fiber result in a plethora of benefits including lower cholesterol and better digestion.
But beware of most fruit juices. Many of them are loaded with sugar and the fiber is maddeningly removed. Fruit contains yummy sugar naturally but many of the manufacturers add still more sugar to their juice products. Those little juice boxes our kids love at soccer games are a good example. Read the labels.
In fact read the labels on everything that goes into your child’s body. Look for sugar content and fat content primarily. Nutritional guidelines have changed in recent years when it comes to fats. There are healthy fats and unhealthy fats. Avoid foods high in trans-fats.
Do eat foods with unsaturated fat, which will show up on the nutritional label as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Those are actually good for the body in moderation. They can reduce heart disease later in life and lower cholesterol among other nutritional benefits. We have banned butter in our house because it is so high in saturated fat. We use a lot of olive oil instead. Olive oil is high in good fat and makes broiled garlic bread just as well as butter.
Fresh meats are not labeled as well as prepackaged products. And if they are labeled it can be impossible to read the messy fine print. Generally fish is the healthiest meat to eat followed by chicken and turkey breast meat. But red meats are okay in moderation if you choose wisely. Unfortunately the healthiest red meats tend to also be the priciest. Look for good deals on tenderloin beef and pork tenderloin. Those are the cuts that are lowest in saturated fat. We do love a hamburger now and again as a treat, but not very often. When choosing ground beef get the lowest possible fat content at your supermarket. Sausage is positively banned in our house.
Salt intake is normally something that needs to be moderated later in life rather than in a child’s diet. However there is high correlation in packed foods between high salt and bad fats. Potato chips, for example, are high in saturated fats and salt. We avoid almost all packaged chips but you will find some common brands of tortilla chips that are low in saturated fats and salt.
Kids should especially be drinking milk and other foods high in calcium. Calcium builds strong bones which is especially important at their age because they are growing. But you should eat calcium too because doing so will lower the chance of osteoporosis which is a bone-debilitating disease.
About dairy products generally, kids should be eating more than you. Mozzarella cheese is a relatively low fat cheese and non-fat yogurt is better for you and kids than their cousins because it is made from skim milk. But generally eat dairy products in moderation because even the low fat ones are not that low fat.
Vegetables? Of course. Who are we kidding. Our experience in the home is that kids will happily eat vegetables if we do as mom and dad. I don’t particularly like vegetables myself which is a product of my childhood. My dad did not like vegetables so I was raised to think there was something wrong with them. Cook them properly and put a smile on your face. They will be eaten by hungry tummies!
Dried beans are a particular food that is often left out of American diets. That is not the case around the world and it is too bad for us. Not only are dried beans one of the most healthy foods that your kids can eat but they are also quite economical to buy. Our kids have learned to love garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and black beans, whether served from the can or turned into dip. Your kids can love them too and they should certainly eat them.
At dinner we have developed an award system for dessert. If the children eat their entire dinner they will get dessert. If they kids do not eat all the food on their plates nobody gets mad or sternly makes them sit at the table. That is how animosities develop against eating healthy foods like vegetables. Instead they are excused and we try again tomorrow. A couple nights of temper tantrums turn sour faces into hungry eaters. After all they do want their dessert.
So should kids eat dessert? Of course in moderation just like everything else. But when choosing desserts try to pick the healthiest desserts you can find. Certainly making dessert dishes with fresh fruit is a great way. We turn waffles topped with strawberries into dessert at our house, and we eat our share of low-fat ice cream and fruit pies. But we always watch the dietary labels and avoid the after dinner treats that are high in saturated fats. Prepackaged frozen desserts are often the wrong choices.
We hope that you have learned from this article on food kids should not eat. Most of the same guidance is for you too, not only for your health but because your boys and girls will follow your lead. Please watch the helpful video and share your experiences getting kids to eat healthy foods in the comments.