In a society that places a high focus on food (both healthy and unhealthy), it’s easy to get mired in the black and white thinking of “good foods, bad foods.” My 90:10 Rule will help you sift through the doubt and guilt –and get your “house in order” when it comes to indulgent foods such as sweets and fried foods.
Parents easily fall into this trap while they are in the midst of “getting food right” for their kids. And boy, does the job of “getting food right” get confusing for everyone!
What if we changed the language we use? What if we try to label foods in a positive manner, so that kids can grasp what we are trying to teach them without fear and negativity?
Enter the concept of Fun Food.
What are Fun Foods?
Fun Foods are indulgent foods that are high in sugar or fat. They are yummy (and sometimes irresistible), attractive, and very delicious.
Warning: they may induce guilt when consumed.
Examples are birthday cake, cupcakes, cookies, soda, candy, chips and fried foods.
Fun Foods tend to be generous in calories, low in nutrition and naturally alluring (think about those pleasure-seeking taste buds–sweet, salt, and fat).
Parents tell me that Fun Foods are ever present, especially in the lives of their children.
I see that parents are weary and fearful of Fun Foods. For some children, they anchor their diet, becoming a mainstay.
You may worry, too.
It’s no wonder, Fun Foods are no longer just a treat at birthday parties, they are making regular appearances at school, church, and sporting events.
Truth be told, I am all for tasty, delicious food, but too many Fun Foods can get kids into trouble with eating and weight.
If you feel Fun Foods are invading your child’s diet, you (and your kids) need a rule to live by!
One that can keep the fun in food without ruining anyone’s health.
The 90:10 Rule for Food
The 90:10 Rule is a concept that I developed in my work with families in my practice. I developed it to help families who were working on weight management and healthier eating.
Families found it helpful, easy to understand, and practical to put into place. Bottom line: the 90:10 Rule helps taper the presence and influence of indulgent foods.
Here’s how it goes:
10% of what your child eats during the day is Fun Food (desserts, candy, sugary beverages, and fried food such as chips or French fries)
For most healthy kids, a good rule of thumb is to eat no more than 1-2 Fun Foods each day.
How to Implement the 90:10 Rule
Make sure your child understands which foods fall into the Fun Food category and which foods he should be eating most of the time. One caveat that makes this system work well is to allow your child to choose which Fun Food they will eat.
Will he choose the soda at the school play, or the ice cream afterward? Encourage your child to choose the Fun Food that is most desirable and meaningful to him.
Take a look:
Sally knows that she will have the opportunity to have donuts after church on Sunday, as well as cake and ice cream at the afternoon birthday party she is attending. Following the 90:10 Rule, she opts for cake and ice cream at the party and skips the donuts at church. Good choice, Sally!
Brent is playing baseball this afternoon and as tradition has it, he grabs a slushy drink. He passes on the bowl of ice cream later that night, remembering he chose his Fun Food earlier that day. Home run, Brent!
Why Not Restrict Fun Foods?
As parents, we know there are endless options for Fun Foods throughout the day, every day.
Eliminating them all together is not practical, reasonable or effective. Food restriction such as this is a recipe for mutiny.
Balancing Fun Foods with nutritious, growing foods is really the key to healthy eating that also happens to be satisfying.
I believe kids need to be able to navigate the world of food. Sweets, sugary drinks and fried foods are not going to disappear. They are prominent in our modern world and they will continue to be.
You can’t control them or your child’s eating–you may try, but you’ll soon find that you’re struggling with your child over food.
The Benefits of the 90:10 Rule
Not only does the 90:10 Rule curb the unhealthy foods in your child’s diet, it also empowers her to make choices and put practical limits on the amount of less-than-healthy foods she eats.
The goal is to help your child pause and think through what she will eat during the day, and give her an opportunity to think ahead and practice decision-making skills with eating.
This means you are shifting the food decisions over to your child, in the area that may be most difficult for you and her to manage.
Don’t worry, because kids are black and white thinkers, the 90:10 Rule fits in with their thinking. They can identify Fun Foods quite easily, decide which ones they’ll have, and make a plan for their most meaningful treats.
I’ve seen kids manage Fun Foods, and manage them well.
The 90:10 Rule is an easy rule to live by for kids–go ahead and give it a try!