Do your trips to the market look like this sometimes? We have to run by the market and the kids gotta come a long. I think it’s a part of life for all parents. And of course, markets know exactly where to place the kids cereals, granola bars, cookies and boxes with their favorite characters. Children food companies actually pay markets for optimal shelf placement to be at children’s heights. (They do the same for adults too – so beware of what you find on easily accessible selves).
I don’t think I’ve had a trip to the market without someone screaming for Dora crackers or begging for Frozen cereal. It happened to me all the time.
If you find yourself in this dilemma, here is how to tackle it without giving in:
1.Allow them to open a conversation with you
First, I tell them OK, that does looks fun! What is it? That opens the conversation with them. Have them tell you first what they think it is. Talk about what ingredients it should be made with.
Second, flip over the box and read them ingredients. This is the first step for me because I don’t want to tell them no, they will just want it more (like if we are deprived of our favorite treats). Instead this step will help guiding them in making better decisions for their own snacks.
1. Read the ingredients with them
I am not talking about the nutritional information chart. I am saying, read the actual ingredient label. Have some fun pronouncing the crazy preservatives that are 5 syllabus long,
Talk about their favorite crayons when you come across food coloring, educate them that syrups mean sugar and count how many sugar ingredients are in that food.
Count how many experimental science experiments are in their food too. Processed foods are filled with lab created preservatives, flavor enhancers, etc.
2. Talk about what ingredients you thought were in the box
Tell them you expected to see whole wheat flour, eggs and butter or whole granola, nuts and dried fruit. Your child might not know what the ingredients are in ice cream or bread, so let’s tell them how to make it using real ingredients, we know and can pronounce.
3. Look for alternatives
Maybe the boxes at the child’s level are not good options but they might have other reasonable options for your family elsewhere. Go on a hunt! Tell them we are hunting for this snack with ingredients we know and can pronounce. Make it fun and help them find something they would enjoy made with real food.
4. Make your own Sometimes another option just does not present itself. At that point I tell my kids, “Hey, let’s make our own!” The internet has a recipe hack for just about every type of snack out there. Find a recipe together, for a snack they would really enjoy, gather your ingredients and make it together.
This is my favorite step. It shows the kids that food does not come from boxes. Food comes from a kitchen. It teaches our kids we have so many options. And when we make it at home, it’s not only better for us, but we GET MORE!
The main goal here is to give our kids choices about their foods, educate them about what they are really eating, and allow them to have a healthy relationship with food.
Plus if you take option 5, you will spend time together doing something fun and delicious together. And, at least for me, there’s nothing better in the world!