5 Rules to a Healthy Eating Habit

african american family enjoying salad and other healthy meal itemsMy kids are sick of healthy eating. They don’t want organic soybean butter and Farmer’s Market fig jam sandwiches, they want Lunchables: crackers, processed cheese, salty disks that pass for lunch meat and a whole lot of chemicals wrapped up in a plastic box.

My younger daughter confessed she dumps the organic carrot sticks the trash (and I thought the ranch dip was decadent). My oldest has been trading her edamame for candy.

Forget the veggie chips I carefully stowed in wax paper bags—heaven for these children would be to open up their lunch boxes and spy a bright-orange bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

My daughter’s been trading her organic edamame for candy.

Now, I’m no stranger to junk food. After enduring years of healthy eating—brown-bag lunches with an oversized, barely washed carrot from my father’s vegetable garden peeking out of the top as evidence of my snack—I spent many years of rebellion indulging in a plethora of processed foods.

But the organic apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: I always felt better when I was focused eating healthy.

In the hopes that I’d similarly indoctrinate my own children, I introduced healthy eating habits early. I knew the statistics: Kids who primarily eat healthy, well-balanced meals with their parents are 40% more likely to get good grades in school, among other great benefits.

As toddlers, my kids ate everything from seaweed to asparagus. I followed the healthy eating rules to a tee:

1. Have regular family meals.

2. Serve a variety of healthy foods and snacks.

3. Be a role model by eating healthy yourself.

4. Avoid battles over food.

5. Involve kids in the process.

We eat a family meal at least four nights a week. A big bowl of organic fruit sits on the counter. They’re familiar with the Farmer’s Market. At the supermarket, we hold discussions in the processed food aisle about how my job as a parent is to protect them from harm—including chemicals.

But guess what? For much of their childhood, two out of my three kids existed on a diet of pasta, pizza, chicken nuggets and the occasional hamburger.

I do my best. The pasta is organic whole wheat, the pizza is homemade, the chicken nuggets are actually soy and hamburgers are free range and organic. Because of BPA, we avoid canned food as much as possible, and all my food is cooked without Teflon.

All meals are augmented by a daily serving of fresh green vegetables, and in-between snacks involve a whole lot of organic string cheese. My son has an aversion to fruit (hence, the string cheese), but both my daughters nibble on what’s in season.

Sometimes, I even let them have Cheetos. (But never in their lunch boxes.)

And, in keeping with rule number four, I try not to argue with them about food. I encourage, yes. I cajole, absolutely. And I definitely set a good example.

As a result, I hope one day my kids and I will sit down to a meal of freshly prepared foods that they don’t recognize—and they’ll take a bite, without question. I may have to wait until they’re 25, but I do believe it can happen.

Hey, a mom can dream, can’t she?

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