Article by Tricia Cunningham
Essential For Your Children’s Well-being. Teach your kids to eat healthfully and they will learn healthy eating habits that will reward them with a lifetime of good health. All kids can be taught to be healthy eaters. The best time to start is when they are infants. But even older children, with the proper encouragement and motivation, can learn to eat healthfully and enjoy healthy food.
General Guidelines To Help Get Your Kids Eating Healthfully• Get the whole family involved.• Choose only fresh whole foods: fresh fruits and vegetables, a little whole grains and healthy proteins.• Sit down with your child and together list some healthy foods that your child likes and can substitute for the foods you want to eliminate from his or her diet. Encourage your child to suggest healthy foods. Make sure your child agrees to the healthy foods so that he or she will eat them instead of the unhealthy foods. Try to get some healthy foods that everyone agrees upon, though they don’t all have to be the same.• Make this a healthy eating adventure, exploring new and healthier foods to eat instead of a dull, boring diet.• Use the “80-20 Rule.” If you eat healthy food 80% of the time, you can have an occasional “forbidden” treat. However, after eating healthfully for a period of time, 6 months to a year, depending how quickly you transition to total healthy eating, you’ll probably forget about the “80-20 Rule” because you won’t crave unhealthy foods anymore. If you do, then your body isn’t getting all the nutrients it needs.• Teach them how to read food labels• Allow them to ask questions about healthy eating and food choices. Use ‘The Reverse Diet’ book as a “Role Model” as an educational tool.
Here are some guidelines for the different age groups to help you get your kids eating healthfully.
When your baby is ready to start eating solid foods, feed them only fresh whole foods: fresh fruits and vegetables, a little whole grains and healthy protein, organic if possible. Use a baby food grinder to grind up the same fresh foods you eat. If your child eats only healthy foods, they will have their favorites that they will ask for and eat eagerly without any coaxing or bribing. Do not feed them candy, cookies, ice cream, chips or any other sugary, refined and processed foods. Keep the food additives out of their foods. Let your relatives, friends and childcare providers know that they are only to eat the healthy foods you allow and not to give them any “forbidden” treats.
Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers
If your child has already tasted the sugary, processed and refined foods, make a game of using the “The Reverse Diet” book with him/her. Help your child choose the healthy foods to substitute for the unhealthy foods. Cut the fruits and vegetables into different shapes and make pictures with them. There are tons of wonderful ways to make fruits and vegetables appealing- have them help, too. Use praise generously when they are eating the healthy food choices. You may want to even have a reward system for eating healthy foods. Have a special nonfood reward for them every time they eat the healthy foods. If they stick with it for a whole day, a few days, a week, have a special non-food treat as a reward, such as a sticker program. Make a weekly chart for their eating times and add different colored stickers for each level of healthiness. Bigger rewards for longer periods of time like a trip to favorite place, going to a movie or something they value but don’t get a chance to do often. Be creative.
When children get into school, they will be around kids eating unhealthy food and they will want to eat what the other kids eat. Start talking with them about health and healthy food and what unhealthy food does to your body on a simple level. Even young elementary age kids can understand this when put in language appropriate to their age. If they have a hard time thinking of healthy choices, start listing some of their favorite healthy foods they can choose from. Have them write down their choices and let them take ownership of them. Have them write in a personal food journal too. When your child goes to school, always pack a healthy lunch for them, unless you have an outstandingly healthy school lunch program. Let them help choose the healthy foods you put in their lunch. If they have a hard time coming up with healthy choices, give them several choices to choose from. And give them a special healthy treat that they really like as a reward for eating the lunch you pack for them. Also, on special occasions, you may want to send a favorite healthy treat to school with them when you know the kids will be having refined, sugary treats. As kids get older, it is helpful to use my “80-20 Rule” as motivation for eating healthfully.
Teenagers have a lot of peer pressure and feel a real need to do what the other kids do to fit in. With this age group, it is very important to teach them about nutrition and why it’s important to eat healthfully. Do not be afraid of teach your child what you have learned. Let them read “The Reverse Diet” and be prepared to answer questions or have them send a request to me. I would be more than happy to help in any way. Make sure the whole family is working on eating healthfully at home and discuss with them how they can eat more healthfully when they are out with their friends. Talk with them about the consequences of not eating healthfully. Use non-food rewards as appropriate for making healthy food choices. They could be as simple as a dollar store inspirational statue. It just needs to be something for recognition of their conscious efforts for better health.
Healthy eating should be a family affair. Kids eat what they are taught to eat. Teach them to eat healthy food and show them by example. Talk about healthy eating and healthy food at home, the importance of eating healthfully and the consequences of eating unhealthy food – diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and disease in general. Parents play a big role in shaping children’s eating habits. When parents eat a variety of foods that are low in fat and sugar and high in fiber, children learn to like these foods as well. It may take 10 or more tries before a child accepts a new food, so do not give up if your child does not like a new food right away.
Parents have an effect on children’s physical activity habits as well. You can set a good example by going for a walk or bike ride after dinner instead of watching TV. Playing ball or jumping rope with your children shows them that being active is fun. With many parents working outside the home, child care providers also help shape children’s eating and activity habits. Make sure your child care provider offers well-balanced meals and snacks, as well as plenty of active play time. If your child is in school, find out more about the school’s breakfast and lunch programs and ask to have input into menu choices, or help your child pack a lunch that includes a variety of foods.
Get involved in the parent-teacher association—PTA—to support physical education and after-school sports. I am an advocate and committee member of a wonderful program, in conjunction with the American Heart Association called The Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The ever-popular program from the Clinton Foundation. Your child’s friends and the media can also affect his or her eating and activity choices. Children may go to fast food places or play video games with their friends instead of playing tag, basketball, or other active games. TV commercials try to persuade kids to choose high-fat snacks and high-sugar drinks and cereals. When parents help their children be aware of peer and media pressures, youngsters are more likely to make healthy choices outside the home.
In conclusion, one of the best benefits of the Reverse Diet plan was for me was that I completely detoxed my body of many of these impurities and lost over 170 pounds. My daily sodium intake prior to the Reverse Diet was between 5,000 and 10,000 milligrams. I ate foods containing MSG like they were part of the food pyramid. Now my body will not allow me to crave these foods. I was always tired, bogged down, had headaches, muscle cramps, and a general feeling of ill health. Not anymore, thanks to my new lease on life after finding success with my program. My whole life has changed for the better.
Coach Tricia Cunningham
Author of “The Reverse Diet”~(Wiley & Sons 2007)