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3 Parent Tips to Downsize Processed Food

This blog post appeared many moons ago when I started Just the Right Byte. As I fastidiously work on Fearless Feeding, I thought this would be a good re-read, especially as spring has sprung and sporting events are in full swing.

downsize processed food

Crackers, pop-tarts, chips, fruit roll-ups, cookies…how many of these items are in your pantry?

Processed.  Manufactured. Colored. Preserved. Artificially sweetened. Added to. 

Most foods, eaten in a moderate fashion, are OK.  The problem is, we aren’t moderate about processed foods. 

Why?  Because we LOVE convenience and efficiency.  Let’s face it, boxes and bags are easier to handle than pots and pans. 

Easier than peelers and knives.  Especially for the busy parent (and what parent isn’t busy?), it is easier to rip into a bag or open a box to quiet the nagging child in the backseat…or to quickly get to the next mommy task.

Processed foods may appear several times a day in the diet of a child.  School events, day care, other family homes…the exposure to processed foods can be widespread and your child’s consumption of them can mount quickly. 

Many parents find it increasingly difficult to keep these foods at bay.  Not only are we tempted by the convenience, but our children think they taste good too.

And taste matters–the sprinkle of “magic yummy dust” over products helps to gain taste-bud loyalty from our kids.

Not only that, food commercials target and entice the little ones. If you have ever shopped with a child, you know firsthand the impact of advertising.

Children remember tag lines, colorful box decorations, and chummy characters. When they find these products in the store aisles–oh, boy! –be ready for the onslaught of begging, negotiating, promising, and all-out tantrums if you don’t buy what they want.

What’s a parent to do? Take charge. Set limits. Dialogue.

Take charge of Food  

Determine how much processed food you will allow in your house. If you are liberal with processed foods in the pantry–your child will be liberal with eating them.

Replace bags ‘n boxes, colors and dyes, and unidentifiable ingredients with satisfying “real food” snacks such as whole wheat bagels with peanut butter, whole grain cereal with low-fat milk, or low fat yogurt with fresh fruit and granola.

Total elimination is not necessary! Many “processed” foods supply meaningful nutrients, while others offer little nutrition for your kids. Be choosy!

Set Limits on Sweets and Treats  

If bags ‘n boxes are a part of your regular diet, try adjusting your purchases and eating habits to skew to healthier foods. Use the 90:10 Rule.

Try to aim for 90% of your child’s daily intake to come from healthy, “growing” foods such as low fat dairy, lean meats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Leave the remaining 10% for “fun foods”–think soda, cookies, chips, and candy. Placing the emphasis on healthy foods and allowing occasional and small amounts of “fun foods” keeps the balance in favor of good nutrition.

Talk About It

Create opportunities to talk with your child about healthy foods and not-so healthy foods.  Differentiate the two, keeping a neutral attitude.

Emphasize foods that come from the earth and those in their natural state.

While the temptation to eliminate and label processed foods as “bad” may exist, it is better to acknowledge their presence, taste, and usage on an occasional basis, so that your child will be able to navigate the wide world of food as he gets older.

How do you tame the boxes and bags in your pantry?

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