Offer a child a junk food item and he will almost instantly love it.
Offer a child something healthy – and there is every chance that he will dislike it
So what is it about junk food that appeals to children instantly?
“Why do children like junk food more than healthy food?”
“And how can you make your child like healthy food?”
In my Parenting workshops – parents often ask me these questions – and this is the answer.
“Children like junk food – not because of the food itself – but because of their parents and what they see around them in their homes.”
Before you wonder why your child likes junk food then – ask yourself – “What do you like to eat?”
Are you thrilled about eating the healthy food you cook at home every day? Or does the thought of eating something tangy, spicy, fat laden ordered from a restaurant or taken out from a packet – excite you more?
Hunger is something that originates in our own bodies – but the food we choose to eat depends on what is available and what we see others eating with enthusiasm.
How does a child decide what he should eat?
A newborn baby lives on breast milk. Babies are born knowing that breast milk is safe food that is good for them and that is all they want and expect.
A newborn cannot get up, move around and choose what he/she eats – and so he consumes whatever he is offered.
The same applies to babies.
When we wean babies to solids – they do not choose the solids they are going to eat. They just eat what they are offered to satisfy their hunger.
As parents – of course we only offer them what is healthy. But as they grow up and start looking around and absorbing more and more of the world around them, they see that their parents are eating different things.
They also notice that their parents look happier and more excited when they are eating some things rather than others. And that is how they decide what foods they like and what they don’t.
What to do if you want your child to like healthy food?
- Eat healthy food yourself. When you have a choice of foods in front of you to choose from – choose what is healthy – even if it is going to take time to cook. Choose healthy food even if you don’t think it is going to be as tasty.
- Talk excitedly about healthy food. Children are always listening. And they listen more when you are not talking to them directly. Make sure the conversations your child overhears are not conversations where you are discussing your cravings for pizzas, chaats and chips. Talk about how much you love healthy food because it makes you feel so good and keeps you from falling sick.
- Look happy and excited when you are eating healthy food. When we eat junk food we are usually well dressed, in a good mood, excited and happy because we go out to eat junk food. Think of yourself in a restaurant. I am sure you look and behave much better than you do at home. Make sure you are as wonderful around healthy food as well. Get dressed for meals at home. Sit down and eat. Talk laugh and have a lively conversation while you eat home cooked healthy meals – just like you would at a restaurant.
- Do not scold your child when he refuses to eat. Your concern for your child’s health and your determination to feed him only what is healthy is understandable and admirable. But if you start fighting and arguing with your child every day over the food that he has to eat – he is definitely going to hate that food.
- Talk about the damage that junk food does. Understand how junk food impacts your health. Talk about the health problems that trans fats and sugars cause when your child is listening. Even if you are not directly talking to him.
If your child is already overweight – try these tips
Remember that you cannot force your child to like healthy food. You have to first joyously walk down the path of healthy eating yourself. And as you do, you will find your child will slowly and certainly follow you.