By Jen Mueller, for SparkPeople
One of my biggest priorities as a mom is providing my kids with a healthy diet. Sometimes I'm met with success (they love vegetables), but other times it's a little more difficult ("Eww! What is this?!?"). I try to expose them to a wide variety of healthy foods, so that eating this way becomes a normal part of the rest of their lives. My kids are 6, 4 and 1, and even though I control most of what they eat at this age, I still shake my head at some of the food that's served when I'm not around. My kindergartner can't go to a Girl Scout meeting, sporting event or even morning snack at school without adults serving her junk food. So when I'm given the opportunity to bring something, I see it as a chance to show kids that healthy food can taste good.
Sometimes I get flak from other parents (including my own) because I don't let my kids order whatever they want at a restaurant or limit the foods I bring into our home. I don't think I'm denying my children the joys of childhood by not serving them many common "kid foods." If substituting vegetables for French fries or telling them they can't have the corndog on the menu is the worst thing I do as a mom, I think I'm on the right track.
At the same time, I realize that putting some foods off-limits often makes them the "forbidden fruit," and they can become the food my kids want most. Just like adults, completely denying yourself the foods you enjoy makes you more likely to binge on them later. I don't want my child to go crazy at a friend's house because their mom serves chocolate milk and I only serve plain. My kids get treats and snacks they like, but there are certain foods they will just never get from me. Recently, I read an article about the top foods nutrition experts won't feed their kids, which inspired me to write this blog. Wondering what foods are on the "off limits" list for this personal trainer's kids?
5 Foods I Won't Feed My Kids
Hot dogs. I'm sure I'll get a little flak for saying this, but I have yet to find anysignificant nutritional value in a hot dog (or a slice of bologna for that matter). The average hot dog has 4 grams of saturated fat and 540 milligrams of sodium. The first two ingredients in a hot dog are mechanically separated turkey and mechanically separated chicken. I don't know what "mechanically separated" means, but I'm pretty sure there's more processing involved than I'm comfortable serving my kids. In addition to that, processed meats, including hot dogs, contain nitrates, which have been linked to colon cancer.
Prepackaged lunches. A lot of my daughter's friends bring Lunchables to school as a "special treat". Here's one variety: Light Bologna with American Cracker Stackers. Listed on the website as a "good source of protein, calcium and iron," they don't highlight the fact that one package contains 35% of the daily amount of saturated fat and 26% of the daily limit for sodium. Without too much planning, you can come up with a much healthier lunch for your kids. In addition, the ingredient list in a Lunchable is too long to count. My general rule is that if a product has more than 5 ingredients, I put it back on the shelf. This doesn't happen 100% of the time, but it's my goal as much as possible.
Soda. Okay, I can't exactly say "never" to this one, because my oldest two have had Sprite a few times in their lives. But it really has been just a few times, on special occasions (like New Year's Eve or birthdays.) They never ask for soda because they are used to milk or water with all of their meals. Soda is loaded with sugar, is bad for their teeth, and it has no nutritional value. If your kids drink a lot of soda and you want to change that, don't try and do it cold turkey. Slowly start replacing soda with water. If they don't like the taste of plain water, try flavoring it with fruit. My kids think it's fun to squeeze an orange slice into their water.
Fast food. The closest my kids have come to eating fast food is going to Panera on occasion. I'd almost always rather make my kids a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner versus a McDonald's hamburger (which they have never had). It's cheaper to cook at home and I know exactly what's going into the food being served. And while PB&J might not be the perfect meal, it's still a pretty balanced meal that I can throw together in mere minutes-and my kids love it.
- Sugary cereals. Growing up, the only cereals we were allowed to have were Cheerios and Rice Krispies. While my friends dined on Cookie Crunch and fruity puffs with marshmallows, we were stuck with the plain stuff. Now I'm glad my parents made this choice and I do the same. Kids are much better off without a sugar-filled start to their day. Instead, our quick breakfasts of choice are peanut butter on toast, Greek yogurt with fruit or Cheerios.
I hope this list doesn't make me seem like a food snob, or imply that I'm better than any other mother who serves these foods to their children. I strongly believe that every parent should do what they feel is best for their kids and within their abilities, finances and priorities. Serving my children a healthy diet full of wholesome food is important to me, so I put a lot of effort into the meals I serve. Sometimes I get strange looks from friends and family when they see what I feed (or won't feed) my kids. I've accepted that I'm different than most moms, and I hope that the older my kids get, the more they will appreciate it too.
But it's not about perfection. My kids do get treats. They love pizza, whether we make it at home or go out to eat. We enjoy going to the local ice cream stand in the summer, and sometimes we make cookies together at home just for fun. They eat cake at birthday parties, and enjoy these "fun" foods just as much as any other child. But in my family, treats are seen as special-not an everyday occurrence.
If you're interested in changing the diet of your family, SparkPeople's Healthy Family Makeover Challenge is a good place to start. Kids can be stubborn, so don't expect all changes to be well-received in the beginning. But if you stay consistent, changing a few small things at a time so you don't overwhelm them all at once, eventually they will come around and your family will be much healthier because of it.
Are there any foods you won't (or didn't) serve to your kids? Do you think my list of off-limits foods is reasonable or unreasonable?
Thinking Outside the Lunch Box
How to Pack Lunch in 5 Minutes
School Lunches: The Newest Childhood Obesity Risk