I am a strong believer when it comes to feeding kids healthy foods. When I was growing up my parents taught me healthy eating habits, and I feel that this gave me a strong foundation. I am trying to do the same with my son, so that he can have the best advantage possible. My son is now almost two and he does not drink juice, and has no concept of what "fast food" is, aside from how fast I can actually get it on his plate. I am not fanatical about restricting his diet; my little guy can still have a few bites of cake at birthday parties, or a treat after dinner here and there. However, on a daily basis, I try to be mindful of what goes into my family. Last week we were at BJ's buying our standard staples, when we walked past one of the food "traps". The women was serving chocolate chip cookies and was practically waving it in front of my son. She asked if he could have one and I said "no". She looked at me like I was the meanest parent ever! In her mind she couldn't understand why I would deny him that cookie. I feel that it is my job as a parent to set up healthy eating habits for him now, and if that makes the BJ's lady give me a funny look, so be it. My son can't make his own choices yet, he won't be able to purchase his own food for many years, so as long as I am providing it, I want it to be as nutritious as possible.
Sometimes this becomes a challenge when we go out to eat. Children's menu's at restaurants typically offer terrible choices, and many of these places should be ashamed of themselves. When did our society decide that it is acceptable to fill our children full of processed and fried foods? Children do not need chicken fingers, french fries, macaroni and cheese, pizza, etc. I know that some will argue that their kids are picky eaters, and I get that, but I don't think that we should throw in the towel when our kids are picky and just allow them to eat junk. We should continue to offer a variety of foods to try to expand their palates. When we go out to eat I always make sure that I pack my son some nutritious foods. It is not hard to pack some steamed vegetables, a cheese stick, and some fruit. When we arrive at the restaurant, I typically choose something from the menu that we will both like. Sometimes I even order him a small piece of plain grilled fish, or some grilled chicken. Most restaurants are very accommodating, you just have to ask.
As parents we also have to think about what our kids are eating when they are away from us. Many health problems/eating issues can be avoided later in life if children are given the tools to make good decisions, especially when they are on their own. It is sad to say, but the public school system in this country provides some of the unhealthiest food choices for our kids. Some kids are eating breakfast and lunch at school, and the majority of their daily calories and nutrition are coming from highly processed foods. Parents think that they are sending their kids to a safe place that focuses on not only their minds, but also their bodies, but sadly this is not the case. Budget cuts and politics seem to override the focus on nutrition in schools. Packing a lunch is the best possible solution to this problem. And packing doesn't have to mean that you get stuck in the peanut-butter sandwich rut. Think outside of the box and try wraps, last night's leftovers, salads, or an english muffin pizza. Allowing the kids to help and make their own lunch is a fun way to have them be involved in the process.
Bottom line: It comes down to being diligent about what goes into our kids. Even our little ones can benefit from a healthy, balanced lifestyle.