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, which helps separate nourishing foods from fun food, 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 try to “get food right” for their kids, but it can be 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 is Fun Food?
Fun food are foods that contain high amounts of 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 Food tends 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 food is everywhere, especially in the lives of their children.
I see that parents are weary and fearful of Fun food. For some children, Fun food anchors the diet, appearing too much and shifting the balance to the unhealthy side.
Fun food is no longer just a treat at birthday parties; they make regular appearances at school, church, and at sporting events.
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 food is 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 1-2 Fun Foods, on average, each day.
How to Implement the 90:10 Rule
To start using the 90:10 Rule, you’ll want to 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 factor that makes this rule work well is to allow your child the choice of which Fun Food they will eat.
Will your child choose the soda at the school play, or the ice cream afterward? Encourage her to choose the Fun Food that is most desirable and meaningful.
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.
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.
Why Not Restrict Fun Food?
As parents, we know there are endless options for treats, sweets and snacks throughout the day.
Eliminating them is not practical, reasonable or effective. Food restriction is a negative feeding practice, encouraging children to be more responsive to these foods and potentially overeat them when they have the opportunity.
Balancing Fun food with nutritious food is really the key to healthy eating.
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 self-regulate 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 together.
Kids are black and white thinkers, the 90:10 Rule fits in with their thinking. They can identify Fun food quite easily, decide which ones they will have, and make a plan for their most meaningful treats.
I’ve seen kids manage Fun food, and manage it well.
Have you tried the 90:10 Rule? Go ahead and give it a try!