Children can benefit from a disciplined approach to healthy eating

If we don’t give our children boundaries for their food choices, it can lead to major health issues.

There are many different interpretations of what “eating healthy” means. To some, it might mean eating vegetables during only three meals each week or snacking on yogurt once every few days. When it comes to our children it is even more important to make healthy eating a priority and help your children establish healthy habits by learning to say “no” and setting boundaries.

There are many components of a healthy diet, but to most, these components are considered  occasional guidelines, not something that should be done daily. For example, take the intake of sugar-loaded drinks, candy, chips and hot dogs at a weekend ball game. Eating junk food at these types of events is easy, fast, cheap and well-accepted, especially for youth. Sometimes they are your only options at the concession stand. 

The impact of poor nutrition can be both short term and long term

There is no question that attention to the nutrition intake of youth is critical to their health, whether it affects them in the near future or offers more long-term complications. The health impact of daily indulgence is not always seen immediately. In other words, kids can eat junk food regularly and often function just like kids who make healthy choices. Dental issues, such cavities, as well as low energy levels, are some examples of concerns that can be related to unhealthy food choices and observed on a short term basis. Long-term health effects, however, are more alarming. Obesity related issues, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and high blood pressure, are major health problems that can strike as early as the  adolescent years.

Good health isn’t just the absence of disease

It goes beyond being diagnosed with a detrimental illness  – children feel better when they are at a healthy weight and eat a balanced diet. Consider the flame of a match versus the flame of a candle. The match is comparable to simple sugars such as candy, cookies and pop; it burns quickly, and then there is nothing left for later. The candle is comparable to a balanced diet of eating complex carbs and protein; they have a steady stream of energy or fuel for their sporting event or even just daily activities.

Learn to say “no”

Saying “no” is not easy, but if we don’t give our children boundaries for their food choices, it can lead to major health issues. No parent would ever want to inflict harm on their child or to wish for their child to have a chronic illness, but if we do not provide a nutritionally-sound foundation for our children and allow them to make junk food the mainstay of their diet, isn’t that what we’re doing? 

The next time your child asks you for a pop, Michigan State University Extension recommends giving them water. When they ask for a donut, give them oatmeal. When they ask for chips for a snack, give them a cheese stick or some strawberries. This practice can be challenging, as junk food has been made fast, cheap and convenient. It may take some time to adjust to eating healthy, but by sticking with it, you are paving the way for a healthy future for your child.  

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