I watch in horror as my son fills his spiderman breakfast bowl. Full to the brim with sugar coated cereal. It’s his second bowl. He could eat breakfast cereal by the bucket load but I want to teach him healthy eating habits.
Breakfast is one of the stress points of our day. My children are not, apparently, morning people.
I wonder where they get that from.
Breakfast is also an important meal. Studies show that if you skip breakfast, you’re more likely to have weight problems.
I suspect you over compensate later on in the day.
It is better to eat small portions of healthy food throughout the day.
My main problem with breakfast is packets of breakfast cereal. Even the “healthier” breakfast cereals contain a ton of added sugar and salt. (Not literally a ‘ton’. Just quite a lot more than they need. Which is none.)
You Get Used to Sugar and Salt
I’m not keen on added sugar and salt. I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think it’s a healthy habit to get into.
Not only do added sugar and salt have long term health consequences, one huge problem is that they change your taste buds.
You get used to those strong flavours. You want more of those strong flavours. You crave that sugar and salt kick.
You don’t want clean healthy food.
Your poor apple and nectarine just doesn’t pull the punches in terms of flavour when compared to a bar of chocolate.
Try This At Home
One Easter we had some delicious juicy sweet strawberries. I took a bite and the flavours exploded in my mouth. My fingers were stained pink with the summery juice.
It was Easter. There was chocolate. I ate a piece of chocolate bunny. How can you describe a chocolate bunny other than sweet? So sweet it makes you wince. Cloying. Overwhelming. The long lingering taste of sickly sweet in your mouth afterwards.
I tried another juicy strawberry. It was horrible. No longer sweet and delicious but acidic and revolting.
Why would I want to eat that?
What had happened to my delicious strawberries.
Nothing. Precisely nothing. My taste buds were so overwhelmed by the sugar in the chocolate that the natural sugars of the strawberry couldn’t compete, leaving the notable flavour of acid.
Not so pleasant.
But this is what happens to us all when we eat lots of sugary and salty foods. We get used to it and we can’t taste the natural delicate flavours of fruit and vegetables that constitute a healthy diet.
Salt is the Same
Salt is exactly the same. If you are used to eating food with lots of salt in it, you need to add salt to your food to taste it.
If you don’t have lots of salt in your diet, you don’t need salt to taste the food.
Where do we find salt? Mostly in packaged food. Sugar and salt are added to the majority of packaged foods. You need to check the labels to be sure but there are some foods that don’t have added sugar and salt.
Yep. All those healthy fruits and vegetables. Those “little packets of goodness”.
How can I Reduce the Sugar and Salt in My Kid’s Diet?
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to eat any packaged food, just healthy fruit and vegetables. But we’re all busy and we get stuck in habits that can be hard to break out of.
Fruit and vegetables can be convenient too. Handing your child an apple is just as quick as handing them a packet of chips.
And much better for them.
- Offer them fruit and vegetables.
- Look at your packets to see how much salt and sugar is in them. Sugar and salt both have lots of different names. (Salt is often called “sodium chloride” but if the label says “sodium” you need to double it to compare it to salt.)
- Stop buying the worst of your packets. Just stop. Your kids may nag, but if you tell them it’s apple and yoghurt for snack and stand firm, they will eat what is on offer if they’re hungry. If they aren’t hungry they don’t need a packet of chips.
- Work out what is acceptable to you. You may have noticed that I’m not keen on packaged foods but we do have breakfast cereal on some mornings because it’s so convenient. We normally have the healthier type, muesli, bran flakes, weetabix. They are not too unhealthy. They all have whole grains in them. But they are expensive and still have added sugar and salt. I find it so frustrating. We also have “chocolate cereal” that they kids love. But we only have it one day at the weekend as a treat. The kids know the rules and they don’t even bother to ask during the week. They know the answer will be, “It’s not the weekend.”
- Cook fresh food. It doesn’t have to be complicated but home cooked food is FAR far better for you and your kids that packaged food.
- Use herbs and spices. There are so many fragrant and beautiful spices that you can use in your cooking instead of salt. Try paprika, cumin, turmeric, ginger.
- Make your own. Muesli is really easy to make. Put some oats and dried fruit in a bowl. Don’t add sugar or salt. Or try overnight oats. Or porridge (oatmeal).
Make One Substitution
I know that it’s unrealistic to think that everyone is going to stop eating packaged foods but even reducing the amount that you buy will help your kids.
How about you make one substitution and stick to it for a month? Perhaps your kids have biscuits for their afternoon snack. How about you replace it with no sugar, full fat yoghurt and slices of fruit? Or even just one biscuit and some fruit?
When you’re ready you can make another substitution. Gradually, you can improve your diet and your kid’s diet until you eat lots of healthy fruit and vegetables.
Don’t Eat Just Because it Tastes Good
Today, Galen poured his breakfast cereal out. The muesli that he made yesterday, full of oats, nuts and dried fruit. I reminded him that he should eat until he was “80% full” rather than “overflowing”.
He still ate two spiderman bowls full of breakfast cereal (just not full to the brim). He ate to stop his hunger rather than to fill up on “easy to eat breakfast cereal”. He didn’t over eat just because his food was laden with sugar and salt.
Gradually my kids are learning healthy eating habits. Gradually, with bucket loads of persistence and patience from mommy and daddy, my kids are learning to eat healthy food. Gradually they are turning into children who love healthy food.
Healthy Eating for Kids FB Group