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Does Forbidding Snacks Work?

May 03, 2008
Telling your children they cannot have certain snack foods right away may just make them desire the forbidden foods more. Children are very impressionable, which can be a good or a bad thing when it comes to their diet. Most parents want their kids to eat a wide range of healthy foods, but most parents don’t do that themselves. And asking a child to do something you won’t even consider is not only hypocritical but, more importantly, highly ineffective, as children tend to model their parents' behavior, not their recommendations.

If you’re doubting that kids really listen to their parents about healthy eating, consider a survey of almost 1,500 children conducted by the America on the Move Foundation. It found that 71 percent of children get information about how to be healthy from their mothers and 43 percent get such information from their fathers.

Meanwhile, most overweight children also have at least one parent who is overweight, because the children learn unhealthy behaviors from their parents at an early age.

Yet, as a result of eating too many junk foods and fast-foods, kids are getting what were once entirely “adult” diseases, things like type 2 diabetes and signs of heart disease. In children!

I find it absolutely astonishing that one study even found infants seven months and older are being given soft drinks in their bottles. And infants that aren’t even 2 years old are eating sweets at least once a day. To say this is irresponsible is an extreme understatement!

Not surprisingly, according to one federal report, America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2007, U.S. kids need some major help with their eating habits:
It’s really up to parents to teach their kids about food very early on. Otherwise, their diets will only worsen as they grow older.

Should You Forbid Junk Food?

Most kids love junk food. And why wouldn’t they? It tastes good. It comes in fun colors and shapes, and the boxes are covered in their favorite cartoon characters. Plus, they see ads for these “fun” “great-tasting” foods on TV all the time, with kids their own age eating them too. So to your kids, junk food has no downside.

That is, unless you give them one.

I really encourage parents to explain to your children why certain foods are not good for them. Show them the difference between natural foods like meats and vegetables, and processed snack foods, and tell them that only the natural foods will help their body to grow stronger.

You must also set a positive example. If you eat junk food, so will your child. If you eat vegetables, and exclaim how delicious and healthy they are, your child will likely want to eat them too.

So to answer the question, should you forbid junk food, it really shouldn’t come down to that. Because the message you want to send is one that encourages your child to naturally want healthy foods. When your children are young, simply don’t bring junk food into your house. And when your children are old enough to get their hands on their own junk food, hopefully they will have learned by your good example to avoid them.

Tips to Making Your Kids’ Diet Healthier

For those of you who have, perhaps, gotten off on the wrong foot with your kids’ eating habits, it is still possible to improve their diet and perception of healthy food. Here’s how:
Now, what if they STILL won’t eat healthy? Well, for you parents who have tried everything you can think of to get your kids to eat right, try out this advice from one of my newsletter readers, Michael D. Berglund, D.C., of the Berglund Health & Wellness Center:
“I have never failed at getting kids to eat veggies using this technique:

I tell parents that they need to have their kids eat their veggies first. And you start out with the smallest portion you know they CAN eat. Then you keep increasing the amount over the next days-weeks-months until they are eating half their meal as raw veggies/salad.

Put their favorite foods of the meal at the very end. This makes them have to work thru until they get to that food. The ideal is starting your kids on this type of program early and introducing a wide variety of veggies so that they don't become finicky eaters.

Also, the parent has to realize that the kids won't starve (they will eat something before they starve... even if it takes 3 days) if they refuse to eat the single carrot you've placed on their plate. You have to be willing to put a carrot on their plate the next meal and the next meal until they realize that it's the only door to the next food item. If it's a battle of wills, the parents have to know that theirs is stronger.”

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