6 ways to nip it in the bud: Training your toddler to stay away from junk food
Finally having a child in your life is happiness. And vowing to be the ‘perfect mom’ is a huge peck of confidence we all strike on our happy faces while we embark on the parenting journey. It doesn’t take you long to know that your baby embodies his/her role model in you, yes, just YOU. And hell, yeah! That’s where eternal learning begins to sprout its tentacles around your tot. These would be the years your children would look back on to thank or pin you for their entire life.
Trust me, dear moms, it’s a grueling task to be a good parent without being accused of your disciplinary shenanigans.
Because technically, ‘good’ goes with ‘lenient‘ or ‘lazy‘, & ‘bad’ goes with anything ranging from ‘insensitive‘, ‘unkind‘ to ‘unloving‘ or even ‘brutal‘. I’m pretty sure you’ve sensed the myriads of scoffs people throw at you for trying to get your kid learn the best things of life in a world that has mostly crap to entice him/her with?
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
– Frederick Douglass
And so it all boils down to one basic thing-Habit formation. Nailing this very nub of parenting is the most quintessential aspect of it. You’re almost sorted there; well, at least until your kids hit their teens! Because the teenage years do not see challenges that have to do with habits, but more of physical & emotional turbulence usually characterized with peer pressure.
Well, now let me just rush to the point, if my thoughts gyrating around junk food just turned you off.
Before that, I’d love to ask you these questions, dear momma:
- So, how many times you’ve had to give in to your kid’s hissy fits over candies while the counter attendant tossed your grocery goodies on the belt?
- How often have you found the commercials of unhealthy noodles, chips & ready-made soups more scarier than those of condoms while your child watched TV?
- Have you pondered over possible explanations to your little pre-schooler when he or she finds his/her friend’s lunchbox more appealing that it always has toffees, wafers & lots of ketchup or Nutella?
I totally get your vulnerability to the day’s environment which shuns a homemade food-lover as old school & glorifies fast food as really cool & hep. No wonder, young children are more at the receiving end of the junk food propaganda. What’s more, pressure from close family in the form of thin-shaming your little munchkin also prods you to surrender to this unhealthy eating epidemic. (Sigh) Often hoping to see your otherwise happy & healthy toddler put on some “good” pounds for his/her age.
But, believe me, there’s lot more to help your child eat healthy apart from just helplessly succumbing to the provoking environment.
Here are 6 easy ways to keep your child away from junk food, FOREVER!
They really worked for me & should work with you, too. You can thank me later for that, enough.
Quite literally! No mother has ever fed her babies without having to babble while they stare at her gestures, face & antics throughout the session. You talk about the food’s color, taste, aroma & use every fancy exaggeration possible for your suspicious baby. Start early on educating your toddler about the goodness of the food you make for him/her. Kids between the age of 15-20 months are usually way cognizant of your language than you think.
Although they cannot make much sense out of the intricate concepts of nutrition, they’d be pretty keen to chuck new words to their vocab, like “proteins” & “carbs”. Make them understand in simple terms how they help them grow fitter & stronger. If you get them dry fruits, explain how the fiber keeps away any tummy problems. Soon they shall begin to appreciate the quality & rightness of the snacks you offer them every day.
Be their role model
Kids just hate double-standards. I mean, seriously! If you don’t want your child to gag on any kind of junk food, do stay by your example. Don’t be a preacher. Be a motivator.
You’re giving her signals of unrest when she sees you lap up the unhealthy savories yourself, but forbid her from doing so.
However, never ever resort to making rhetoric statements such as,”That’s just not for kids!”, “I never had them as a kid. You can have them when you grow up.”
Such impressions will only incite your kid to defy your instructions & never find junk food offensive at all. (Sorry if you find ‘offensive’ an overstatement. Well, for me, that’s a quite appropriate adjective).
The Good, Bad & the Unhealthy
Start educating your tiny darling about the sad part of eating junk food as early as possible. Explain about gaining unhealthy weight, obesity & lifestyle diseases in the most comprehensive manner. Nonetheless, never inspire your child to associate this information with body-shaming his/her peers. NEVER! If they still shilly-shally about their friends having all the ‘forbidden’ stuff, you could politely ask them to help their friends, as well, take to a healthy childhood just like them!
They deserve better rewards
Have you used promises of buying your daughter a McDonald’s lunch if she fared well for her tests? Your son doesn’t settle for any ‘reward’ other than a pizza for being a good boy?
Children tend to get more & more obstinate once they sense your bribing system over good behavior. By doing so, you’re telling them that it’s perfectly OK to have junk food if you ‘earn’ it. And to the tune of addiction, they’d ‘earn’ it every damn time. Rewards could instead be buying them fancy stationery, a favorite book or game. For the kiddos with a cute appetite, dinner at a good restaurant serving contemporary cuisine could make a great high-five.
Make them fit for life
Fitness is the essence of a healthy living. Let your kids learn the importance of exercise apart from worshiping a flawless diet. Any diet is patchy & incomplete without a proper fitness routine. Encourage your kid to engage in a lot of outdoor play instead of coddling him with gadget games. If Yoga is your muse, let your little one join you too. He/she may not be a born sports-child, neither may sports interest him/her the way you want it to. But, please do not cosset him as a child with the TV remote & some nachos & fritters on the couch all the time he or she is at home.
Pack all your goodness
Before I mention this, all the working mothers deserve an enormous ‘Hats off’!
Although it’s always been nice to have hubby around the morning briskness over rushing to office & school, packing 3-4 lunch & snack boxes everyday is, indeed, a job. Try to ensure packing a fruit besides the daily meal in your youngster’s lunchbox. Fruits are the best snackers, which greatly suppress the urge to feast over fast food. Assorted dry fruits also make a delight. We see an ever growing number of children hating fruits today. Who’d want to have them once the fried & baked tit-bits are already rousing their palate?
Avoid smothering the bread varieties as rotis, chapaties or dosas with the unnecessary ketchup. Ketchup contains empty calories often with an overdose of preservatives. All the more, it only develops rejection for the normal accompaniments like healthy sabzis & chutneys.
Tell them what junk food is all about & draw the likeness to the nascent danger with repulsive habits of stealing, bullying & hurting. All said & done, one can only assure that your education can help your little one defeat any temptation for the entirety of life, even if it comes from grandparents, aunts & uncles or even cousins.
Would be great to know what worked for you.
Good luck! Because, I know you’re doing an awesome job!