Let’s face it. Grocery shopping with children is tough enough. The kids may be tired, hungry, and bored while we drag them down aisle after aisle. Now add in the temptation of highly attractive but unhealthy processed food, and it can be easy to break down and give in. Saying “no” does not have to sting. It can be done with warmth, love and compassion. Saying “no” may also create a “teachable” moment, in which kids can come away having learned a lesson about healthy eating.
First, put yourself in the position of a child. Children are bombarded by advertising and lured by smart, attractive packaging. Groceries stores also are set up to tempt them into asking for unhealthy food. Children like what they see, and do not know any better. They do not know that highly processed, colorful, fun-shaped foods with their artificial sweeteners, preservatives and dyes, can cause them a myriad of health issues later (or not so much later) in life. It’s a parent’s job to say no, and to protect them from the dangerous consequences of these artificial foods.
Here are some artful ways of saying “no”, while keeping your kids health in mind:
Say “no” but offer an alternative. For instance you might say, “Those cookies look nice, but I think I have a recipe for something almost like that, and it will be a lot healthier. Maybe we can make them together.”
Offer an explanation, and create a “teachable moment”. For instance you might say, “I don’t buy those kind of fruit snacks because they have dye in them that gives them bright colors. Some people can get really sick from those dyes. Can I show you on the label?” The child may then see that the “no” comes with a good reason, and that you are looking out for them.
Try to time your shopping after a healthy meal. Hungry kids (and parents) are much more likely to give into the pressures and temptations of unhealthy snack foods and treats while roaming the aisles.
Lay ground rules early, so you do not have to say no so much. For instance, you may establish a rule that you don’t buy candy from the checkout aisles at the grocery store. kids know that I do not buy candy in the check out aisles. At first it may take a lot of repetition of saying something like, “Sorry, we don’t buy candy near the cash register.” Once the rule is understood, they may stop asking for unhealthy options.
Offer a small treat for cooperating at the grocery store. Preferably this would not be a food item. Once you are changing the way you shop, you may offer a small trinket for a child who is helpful and cooperative.
Make a list. Start off the shopping trip by laying down rules that you are buying what’s on the list and not much else. Making a list saves time (and money, too!)
Teach your kids how to spot unhealthy food. This works great for kids who can read and can be shown how to navigate a food label. For example, teach them to spot certain unhealthy preservatives or foods with high fructose corn syrup. Training them to be a partner in your efforts may empower them to help you make good food choices.
For more ideas on raising children with healthy eating habits, visit doctoryum.com, a pediatrician’s nutrition website.