Now, the trio of girls I care for is an extremely athletic trio. Even the youngest needs a full hand to count all of the sports she participates in. Most of my afternoon is dedicated to taking them to their various after-school practices. Often, we have about a 15-minute window in which to prepare and eat a good snack.
What classifies a good snack in my book?
When you are doing as many sports as these kids, I'd say something with a good mix of protein and carbs. Peanut butter apples, turkey sandwich on wheat bread, occasionally my "special mac and cheese" (I use 2% cheese and whole wheat pasta, throw in some chicken, and they have no idea it's pretty good for them)... something filling and energizing.
The problem I have is, the pantry is like this black hole, sucking the two older kids into its void of chips and crackers and cookies and toaster pastries. They come home from school and meander into that pantry, looking not unlike zombies searching for brains. I don't have this problem so much with the youngest girl, because I've been with her since she was a baby. Her fragile mind has already been warped with my healthy-eating ways. "Apples with peanut butter? Sounds good. Hey, do we have any more edamame? Can I have some of your dehydrated vegetable chips? PLEASE??"
But what do I do with the older two? Can a girl get a lock for the pantry??? It's really holding us back.
The best we can do with the younger generation (and really, this applies to you as well) is this:
1) Start them early. The best way to enforce great eating habits is to start the habits when they are first chewing. I tried the littlest charge on any food I could when she was a toddler. Sometimes she liked it, sometimes she didn't. But we had a couple of rules. You try at least one bite, and you can't say you don't like something if you've never tried it. The mantra, "No thank you, I would not like to try that" became popular. But overall, she typically would at least sample something.
2) Educate. Of course kids don't know about reading labels and what portion sizes are, they're kids!! It's up to you to explain (and just because they're kids doesn't mean they're dumb, they can follow what you're saying) just what's in something, or why one choice might be better than another. I find the girls are generally interested in learning why an orange is better than orange juice. Or why wheat bread is better than white bread. Or why they can't have cookies for breakfast.
3) Limit. Kids will not set limits for themselves. It's just not something they do. Willpower and limits are hard enough for adults- can you imagine being a kid again? You have a huge ice cream sundae in front of you. Are you going to stop halfway through and think, "Hey, I should really stop. I mean, a serving is only a half a cup." I'm going with "no." So, the adults have to set the limits. Kids do not need ice cream and cookies and chips and garbage all day. I grow weary of people telling me, "But that's all he/she eats/likes!" When they get hungry enough, they'll eat the fruits or the veggies. They will! I'm not saying kids can't ever have treats, obviously they should get treats. But with the youngest charge (I use her as an example because I'm with her the most), she knows she has to finish her grilled cheese, carrots, and milk before she gets her cookie. Or whatever the treat might be that day. And honestly, she's FINE with that. She never complains about getting one cookie, or how small her ice cream scoop is. She eats it, she enjoys it, and she moves on to her coloring book.
You know the saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks"? Well, you can, but it's really hard to implement changes the older we get. You get accustomed to a certain way of eating, a certain way of exercising/not exercising... hell, I have a certain way I get out of bed each morning. We are creatures of habit, every last one of us. It's hard to shake it up! Why not start kids on healthy habits as early as possible? After all, they are the future- wouldn't it be nice to see the next generation not have the weight and obesity problems our current nation has? A healthier generation? And helping kids get healthy helps you out, as well. Its a lot easier to make healthy choices when you're doing it together, as a family. It's a built in support system, you can all hold each other accountable.
Don't be afraid to mix up your habits. Make healthy choices today, for an easier tomorrow.
If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all. ~Pearl S. Buck