Being a good parent means making sure your kid gets all the nutrients they need for their bodies to mature properly and for your little ones to build strong immune systems. But diet fads have made eating healthy overly complex. Parents are being told from left and right to cut things from their diet completely-- gluten, carbs, meat, what's next? Massive corporations exacerbate this problem by labeling their juices "natural" when in fact they're filled with artificial sugars. This intentionally misleads consumers-- is the food that says it's "healthy," good or not?
Buying fresh produce and having time can cook can be an option limited by class and location. Food deserts prevent a lot of families from obtaining accessible healthy food. This is why as first lady Michelle Obama took the initiative to ensure American kids would have access to have healthy wholesome food at lunch in their schools.
Another strategy could be to have fast food chains cut back on the trans fat and sodium. Like McDonald's tried to do with the McLean Deluxe. That way healthy food could be as close as any McD's.
One of the best things about eating better is that you feel better. Can you tell this healthy food from junk food?
What are you drinking for breakfast?
While it might be nice to get some sugar in the morning just to wake your kid up, make sure you don't overdo it. Breakfast foods are already filled with artificial sweeteners. Natural sugars are broken down slower and don't cause a spike in glucose levels.
Which is the snack you reach for?
Veggie sticks recently got sued because they don't actually contain any veggies-- just potato starch, rice flower, and a lot of salt. Plus they don't really fill you up, so where's the win? When you're feeling peckish it's better to go for something a little more filling.
What's the best thing after exercise?
It's good for kids to be involved in some sort of sport or game. Not only for their physical health but also for their social activity. Once they come back from it you know they'll be starving, so what do you offer them as a snack? Whatever you do it goes straight into their bloodstream.
What's your fast food joint?
Every once in a while fast food is a good choice. Plus your kid will be pining for it because these corporations know how to seem cool to your five-year-old. The healthy factors to look for in fast food joints is to check if they have antibiotics in their meat, if their fries are freshly cut, and if they're fried in peanut oil instead of vegetable oil.
How do you dress your salads?
Start this young. We get it, a bunch of leafy greens and raw vegetables alone can be a little dry. But don't dress your salad in a really sugary, fatty dressing! That diminishes all the positive health benefits. Instead throw the salad dressing together yourself. If you've made the salad this step will take two seconds.
What fruit juice do you reach for?
Ok, we know we're repeating this but it cannot be stressed enough. Fruit juice even when guaranteed 100% is a sham. A cup of the worst *cough* Welch's *cough* is the sugar equivalent of four Krispy Kreme donuts...does that sound worth it? The bitter flavours are always highest in added sugar.
What's your breakfast yogurt?
It's important to know how much sugar is in these options especially when they don't seem like a treat! However if your breakfast yogurt has more grams of sugar than a Hershey's chocolate bar there's a problem. The worst part is you don't even think you're having a treat!
What's your favourite soda?
Ok, so no soda is optimal but sometimes you need the caffeine or a sugary lift-up. The ones to stay away from are the ones containing high fructose corn syrup. Yikes! If you haven't drank drinks containing that in awhile you'll actually feel the sugar coat your teeth.
What's your favourite meat?
Oftentimes it's not the meat you consume but the rate you consume it. Just make sure you're having it only a few times a week. Studies have shown nations with lower meat consumption have greater longevity. Sure, meat is high in protein but that's not so hard to find.
What would you get at McDonald's?
Ok, we know there are purists out here who would NEVER go to McD's. But sometimes it's unavoidable, like when you're on a really long road trip in rural somewhere. And in those times there are options that are more healthy than others. Take a look, what would you choose?
What cookies do you reach for?
Are you a cookie monster? If so, that's entirely fair-- they're delicious! However you might want to look into the types of treats you're offering your little one. You might think, "a cookie is a cookie," but you're wrong. Some of these brands hardly contain chocolate at all-- just vegetable oil, fructose, and cornstarch.
What kind of bread do you have?
You have to be careful about this one because you're eating it everyday-- oftentimes every morning. Some of these breads have a shelf life of over a month! Many are super high in sugar. If you're craving a sweet breakfast you're better off making some easy French toast.
What are the chips you crave?
If you're reaching for chips you're pretty much resigning yourself to unhealthy levels of sodium. But that's ok as long as it's only once in a while! Unless you really prefer the taste of them it's often not worth buying into "healthier" brands. BUT Lay's does offer a good oven baked option.
What meals are in your freezer?
Some frozen meal brands are more sinful than others. It's good to know about the healthy ones because we've all run out of time to cook before. A lot of these are also popular in college dorms. Which do you have stockpiled in your freezer right now?
What's your favourite spread?
Nobody likes dry toast. So what do you slather on in the morning? Are you more of a sweet or savoury eater? Neither are particularly good so just remember to balance. Though they contain loads of sodium, Marmite and Vegemite also contain vitamin B which is good to have when you're pregnant.
Which sounds like the healthiest option?
All of the below are loaded with sugar but they're marketed as healthy options! Some of these can be branded as "whole wheat," "gluten-free," and "low fat" options. Make sure to look at the label. Dried fruit can be ok only if there are no added sugars, but even then it's best to go with the
What sort of cereal are you dishing out?
Ingredients are typically listed in the order of measurement used-- from highest to lowest. So you know it's bad if the first listed ingredient is sugar. Only one of the cereals below has three healthy ingredients listed one after another: whole grain wheat, raisins, and wheat bran.
What sort of fish are you serving?
In my humble opinion the earlier your little one gets into adult food, the better. After all, kid's food only exists because there's a market for it--not because kids can't eat adult food. Watch out though! Some of these fish are known to be prone to high rates of mercury poisoning to begin with.
What's a label that catches your eye?
Beware of labels that advertise how low their fat content is. Chances are these brands will compensate with trans-fat or higher sugar content. Plus consumers will eat more of this snack food because they think it's healthy. Eating well isn't hard. Just go back to basic, non-modified food.
What kind of milk are you bulking up with?
Obviously you'd turn to the milk substitutes if you're lactose intolerant, but if not any organic milk is way better than conventional nonfat. Yes, yes, milk is good for your bones but it is not the only available source of calcium! Okra, kale, and spinach are all rich in this nutrient, just think of Popeye!
Which seems like the healthiest fix to you?
Again, this is just an example of health gimmicks that are filled with sugar and don't offer substantial nutritional benefits. If you're into peanut butter (ie if you're from North America) the Smucker's natural is a good option. Just get away from that refined stuff, yuck.
What sort of baby food do you have?
There was a recent scare with high levels of arsenic in rice-based baby food. The Clean Label project hosted a study testing nutritional levels and contaminants in baby formula and food. Report cards for a bunch of brands are available on their site.
What canned soup do you have in your cupboard?
Not all canned soups were created equal. In fact a lot of them have way too much sodium-- remember, this is often a substitute for low calories and fats. These are tricky because they look like a cheap healthy and nutritious meal, but looks can be deceiving!
How do you sauce your pasta?
Not all of us have the time or energy to make our pasta sauces from scratch. The sneakiest junk ingredient in these will be the sugar, and of course, the meat if you're buying a chunky kind. Next time maybe see if you can cook the marinara in advance and freeze it.
What oatmeal are you getting your hearty grains from?
Winter is coming and that means warm, hearty breakfasts. One of the easiest of these is a bowl of oats-- it'll keep you full till lunchtime and certainly warm you up. But what instant oats are you reaching for? Protip: anything Bob's red mill is probably top notch.
What Starbucks drinks do you allow?
Another thing winter definitely means is warm caffeinated drinks! Though If your kid is under age ten they probably shouldn't be drinking Starbucks anyway. (Unless it's something like a hot chocolate!) You're safe if your kid chooses anything Tevana.
What does mommy/daddy eat for breakfast?
Your kids are looking up to you. You should refine your own diet so if they want what you're eating it's a good option. One of the recent breakfast fads is egg whites. Watch out though, this part of the egg only gives you a small amount of protein and none of the good vitamins the yellow contains.
What powerbars do you give your kid?
This is a easy snack to provide your kid with between errands and sports. It's portable and doesn't require utensils. But does it have too much sugar? Saturated fats? Enough nutrients? That all depends on the brand.
Where do you treat yourselves to a burger?
Burgers are nice once in a while. To be fair even at the worst of the burger chains you can get some pretty, not healthy, but fair options. Though these may be spelt out on the online menus rather than in store. Don't even think of getting those creative ones at the state fair though.
Who do you go to for ice cream?
Nothing better to temper a hot summer's day than some cold ice cream. And yes, this is a treat, but some treats truly go overboard with sugar content. If you don't pay attention to this your little one may go crazy for an hour and then need a nap.
What fruit ya snacking on?
How is your kid getting the fruit they need? There are tons of fruit snack options on the market today, but is fruit really that difficult to eat on its own? Just make sure you glance at the amount of sugar per serving.
What're you packing for lunch?
Everyone knows all of the cool kids had lunchables. But who knows why? They are low in nutritional value and everything they contain is processed. If you don't have time to make lunch you might be better of just giving your kid leftovers.
What is a quick and easy meal?
What happens when mommy or daddy has had a busy day and has no time to make dinner? Instead of immediately opting for takeout it's a better idea to have some of these options lying around. Sometimes leftovers are honestly a godsend.
What candy bars did you give out for Halloween?
Halloween just flew by and that means you were doling out candy to everyone else's kid on the block. But what sorts of sweets were you offering? Believe it or not there are some OK candy bars out there.
How do you make a cake?
Setting a good example in what you eat is a good way to get your kids eating better. Another good way is to enlist your kid as a little cooking helper. Making a cake is one of the better bonding activities there is, how do you go about it?