We’ve all been there. At a party or other event, surrounded by unhealthy snacks and sweets, and suddenly our willpower goes out the window! While it’s okay to indulge occasionally at special events, this same scenario happens all too often in our own homes! I hear it from my clients all the time: “My big downfall is after the kids go to bed, I get into their snacks.” Or, “Now that I’m working from home, I keep eating all the kids’ snacks, which I know I shouldn’t be eating!” So, here’s the real question, if you know this food is bad and you shouldn’t be eating it, why on earth are you feeding it to your children?!?
For the record, I am not blaming any parent that does this. The snack industry did a fantastic job of creating sugary and enticing treats targeted at children, and we as adults, fell right into the marketing trap. We need to be more informed consumers and stop believing this idea that kids can eat whatever they want because “they’ll burn it off.” The very sad reality is that foods today are more processed and packed with sugar than ever and kids are actually moving less than ever! This combination is detrimental for overall health and does not create healthy behaviors to be carried into adulthood. If you eat sugary, processed foods as a kid, you will crave (and eat) sugary, processed foods as an adult!
Healthy habits start in the home. Families that all follow healthy eating habits together have much better success. This means no “kid snacks” and “adult snacks,” but only healthy snack options for everyone! It’s important to have conversations with kids about the importance of healthy eating and lead by example. It is much easier to raise healthy children than try to fix sick adults. And we are learning more and more how our choices early on in life are affecting our health well into adulthood.
Making healthy lifestyle changes is difficult, but making changes as a family lends extra support and ensures all members of the household will benefit!
Here are a few tips for eliminating the junk food drawer:
Swap chips and pretzels for nuts and popcorn: While all salty and satisfying snacks, nuts offer healthy fats and protein to help keep you full and popcorn is a better, unprocessed alternative to fried potato chips and high-glycemic index pretzels that spike blood sugar levels.
Try a fruit bowl: Fruit is a great way to satisfy that sweet tooth but also provides important nutrients and antioxidants. Having the fruit washed and ready to go makes it an easy snack to grab and go.
Make special treats a family outing: It’s not that you can never have treats like ice cream or baked goods. But instead of keeping those items in the house for daily consumption, find your favorite local place and make it a family outing to go grab a treat. If you can walk or bike there, even better! This offers a fun activity that gets you out of the house and will help keep you from overindulging. Plus, you get the added bonus of supporting a local business!
Portion Control: The biggest downfall with snacking is the foods we choose are often high in calories and low in nutritional value, and we eat A LOT of it. Use containers to portion out a true serving size and stick to it!
Be Mindful: Ask yourself why you are snacking and what you are getting out of your chosen snack? Are you actually hungry because you missed a meal? Do you need fuel for an upcoming workout? Are you not feeling well? Or do you just want it because it’s there and tasty? Mindless snacking due to stress, boredom, and cravings is incredibly problematic for our health. Read labels. Understand that food is the fuel for your body. What are you choosing to fuel your family??
Discuss food choices as a household: If one family member has allergies or is trying to follow a particular diet plan, discuss and try to understand why they are trying to avoid certain foods. Likely if it is good for their health, it is good for yours too! Instead of trying to have different snacks and meals for everyone in the house, try to find foods that will work for everyone. The support of the family can go a long way for someone trying to make healthy lifestyle changes. And it’s never too early for kids to learn healthy behaviors!
If healthy snacks are available in the home as opposed to processed junk food, it will be much easier to make the right choice! Starting these behaviors early and adopting them as a family offers the best chance for success. Be united as a household and make choices that will benefit the health of everyone!