Fall has arrived and many of you have probably started spending a few more hours at home with your friends or family. Surely, those of you who have kids and want to follow a more balanced diet must be looking for ways to teach your kids to eat less junk food. Also, I think you must be wondering: can kids avoid junk food when they are with their friends? Can parents persuade their kids to eat more balanced meals or will the pressure of eating healthy lead them to do the opposite?
Of course, these are questions that most -if not all- parents may have! But let's see what are the answers to these questions and how can junk food be part of a balanced diet!
1. Kids will definitely eat junk food, no matter how careful the parents are.
This is definitely true and something we have to accept. Also, if they do not try junk food, how will they appreciate healthy nutritious food growing up? What you can do, besides explain to them why they should include vegetables, legumes, fruits, and cereals in their diet, is to make sure you do not buy foods rich in saturated and trans fats, processed sugar, and salt and have them in your pantry. You see, it seems that when they are not in your home (and they do not become the answer to your cravings!), then a healthy habit is created; and kids follow that habit from an early age. Beyond that, kids can consume these foods in moderation when they go to a party or when they go out with their friends. The quantity and quality of food we consume makes the difference. In other words, it does not matter if junk food is part of your diet, as long as it is consumed less often and not in large portions.
2. Make homemade junk food.
Here is another great habit that you can adopt and -at the same time- something that you can teach your kids from an early age. Surely, when you go out, just consume what you want according to your mood. But if you want to eat “junk food” at home, then make homemade oven-baked fries or chips from another vegetable such as carrot, kale, avocado and sweet potato. You can also make a healthier burger like a mushroom burger, or with a veggie patty, or the healthier choice of a classic burger. Now, what if we want to eat a pizza that is usually a choice rich in saturated and trans fats -and salt-? What can we do? Apart from the nutritious pizza options with zucchini or mushrooms that are great alternatives to make kids eat more vegetables, you can also make a caprese pizza or a pizza with eggs where you will know exactly what ingredients it will contain, and you will be able to customize whatever is needed. Just remember that whatever homemade junk food you make, you should serve it with salad and vegetables!
Moreover, products like granola or energy bars are ideal to make at home; just choose recipes that do not contain processed sugar or the fats of a ready-made product.
3. Make a grocery shopping list with your kids.
Making a grocery list and organizing the weekly program will help your kids establish another healthy habit. More specifically, adding to your list and program a few healthy recipes or products such as wholewheat bread-pasta or legume pasta, brown rice, bulgur, or amaranth, will help kids get to know these foods and will probably learn to choose them when they grow up. Even if your kids do not love these foods at first, and even if you see that some of the healthy recipes you chose to make during the week did not come out so nice or your kids did not like them so much… do not give up! Just choose the next recipe you will make a little more carefully, combine it maybe with a slightly more nutritious junk food dish, and continue to have healthy habits in your daily life.
So, what do you think? Is it so hard to make a slightly healthier and more nutrient-rich junk food dish at home that the whole family will love and teach your kids to have the right balance? I cannot answer yes or no for sure, but it is definitely worth a try!
This article was written in collaboration with the scientific advisor-sports nutritionist Anna Maria Volanaki, MSc, BDA, SENr, INDI.
The website akispetretzikis.com offers as a service a variety of articles, based on scientific sources. All the articles are provided as general information and no text should be used as a substitute for advice from a physician or another health scientist, regardless of the date it has been published.