Teaching kids how to eat healthy

I am known as the crazy daughter or wacky daughter-in-law among my family members. I might turn into a evil witch when people offer unsolicited sweets or candies to my kids. Yes, I am that mother.
I love deserts and chocolate myself, that’s for sure, I won’t lie. “Sweets and candy” is not limited to grocery/bakery purchased packaged foods. For me any processed or homemade food with high levels of sugar in it which fills a child’s belly instead of a healthier choice is unnecessary.
Let’s take fruit yogurt or chocolate milk. Gummies called fruit snacks that are marketed as healthy snacks. Cookies, crackers… Products that contain certain items such as grains or fruits making people think it is a healthy product, like some granola bars.
All of these contain high levels of sugar. Even if you only consume the smallest size of chocolate milk, it has 10 grams of sugar. If you add fruit yogurt and cookies, it makes at least 30 grams of sugar. What does this amount of sugar mean, for the body mass of an elementary school age kid? It means that their blood sugar will shoot through the roof. It means – assuming a cube of sugar is four grams – they are eating equivalent of 7-8  sugar cubes. It is not only bad for their teeth and but also their vascular and hormonal system. Sugar weakens their immune system. Consuming high levels of sugar means, sending an open invitation out to diseases.
Parents are role models for kids’ eating habits. Children know how much they can manipulate the adults to what extend. My son and my daughter know this very well.  They know what I will give them and what I won’t. I admit, they are tenacious. They try me out from time to time. If I let them eat something that I usually don’t, only once, even only once, they’ll note that and use that as an argument for every opportunity in the future.
My husband is pretty much in line with the limits I put, with some flexible options. But my kids know that their grandparents are far more relaxed in giving them junk foods than me and my husband. They know how to use this very well. They take advantage of  it to the fullest extend. Unfortunately, our parents enjoy it, rather than being worried.
When we were being brought up, our parents did not spoil us with junk foods as much. Even if we asked for candies and chocolate they would say no in most cases, which makes their current attitude very interesting. Now, they serve their grandchildren all the bad nutrition choice out there, even before the kids ask for them. Showing their love means letting them have what’s not really good for them. They are so lenient that I always joke, they would let them smoke if kids asked for it.
I recently decided to change my approach. I think my children have grown enough to sense and judge. So I decided to reach out to them differently and use brainwashing methods instead of saying no all the time. My daughter is three and a half years old, I don’t think I will see results with her right away but my son is bearing the fruits now.
When they ask me for a healthy food, as I give them what they want, I praise their choice and tell them how important and healthy it is to consume it. If what they ask for has lots of sugar, unsaturated fats, and is highly processed then I tell them what harms can it make to their body. When they come with me while I am doing grocery shopping, I explain to them how I make my choices.
I explain to them how sugar, processed foods, fats can harm the body. The hottest discussions are usually on the food I put in their lunch bags. When they see their friends bring junk foods like chips, they tell me other parents give those to their children and ask me to give them the same thing. I have hard time explaining, based on what I know is right and wrong, not all the parents are making the right choice for their children. However, I still tell them, “I would not be a good mother, if I let them have that junk food knowing what’s in it and telling them it’s no good.” My son gets upset and disappointed but eventually he is convinced.
When we are out, if my kids ask for packaged, processes foods then I read the labels for them and tell them for example that there is mono sodium or glutamat in this and that it is very bad for us.  If they have to get something, I offer them healthy alternatives.
My son asks me whether something is healthy or not and gets my confirmation before putting something in the cart. We haven’t yet tested whether this would work while they are with their grandparents. Even though my kids don’t ask for them, grandparents might offer them unhealthy foods and my kids might be tempted and consume them.
I know the way I am bringing up my kids sounds crazy to my family members. My husband thinks I am exaggerating. It is not like I never give them candy, deserts or juice. It wouldn’t be a exemplary parenting if I give my kids everything they wanted, knowing  that “sugar and the stagnant life styles are the main two threats against human health”. We might not be able to reverse the effects of unhealthy foods we consume saying “ it is not that much, we only eat it on the weekend….” When I get tempted, I can see its negative effects on my skin and body right away. Even at my age, I still train my self to eat healthy. I still struggle with my sweet tooth/sugar addiction. That’s why I will continue to train my kids to eat healthy, call it brainwashing if you wish. It is very important to train kids as early as possible so that they can make it a life style, have strong will powers to say no to unhealthy food and choose healthy foods instead.

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