Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Game Plan to Protect Kids from Junk Food this Holiday Season

Picture courtesy #MomsNotLovinIt
By To-wen Tseng. Originally posted on MomsRising.org.

On a recent Sunday in my church, a nice lady tried to feed my 18-month-old a piece of chocolate. She wasn’t happy when I politely said "no." “Come on, why don’t you give him a treat? It’s just a leftover Halloween candy,” she said, turned to my child, “I’ll give you a treat when mommy is not around.”

The incident made me think. Surely our culture is strutted with candy and other junk foods. Every so often, I feel that I’m fighting against the whole world just to protect my child from junk foods. But I cannot be the food police around him 24/7. That “leftover Halloween candy” remind me that, for this upcoming holiday season, I need a game plan to protect my little one from junk food. This is what I’m going to do:

Plan my family’s meals carefully. I can proudly say that I have a very healthy eating habit—I eat dairy, lean meat, vegetables, and brown rice; almost never have candy, cookies, or chips. Thanks to my own mother, when I was growing up she always planned the family’s meals with adequate protein, fiber-filled food, and whole grains that help us feel fuller for longer. Her theory is that we all tend to make poor food decisions when we’re hungry. The result? My mother did successfully raise three daughters with good eating habit!

Model good eating habits for my child. We all have heard about this argument, “if you forbid sweets, your children will just get crazy for candy when they grow up.” But according to pediatricians, it only happens when parents forbid children from eating sweets but gorge on those sweets themselves. Actions speak louder than words. My mother always kept tempting foods out of the house when I was a little girl, and I never even had a desire to try the sweets. Also, I believe that parents should never use food, especially those sugary or fatty treats, as rewards.

Create a positive eating environment. I recognize that other children and adults play a role in what my child eats, so I try to surround him with people who will make it easier for him eat healthy. For example, the day care that my little one currently attends has a no candy, no soda policy that I am pleased with. Some people from my bible study group love sweets, and I always offer to bring home-made cookies and fruits so that our children will consume reasonable portions of sweets.

Play as a team. Holiday season is all about getting together with families but unfortunately, there are always family members who like to feed little ones junk foods. I came form a family with a healthy eating habits but my husband didn’t. His family LOVES fatty and sweet foods. When my in-laws try to feed our child empty calories, I need my husband to say no to them nicely but firmly. After all, my mother-in-law can be upset if I turn her down, but won’t be upset if her own son turns her down!

Boycott junk food marketing. Every year, food and beverage companies spend $2 billion promoting unhealthy foods virtually everywhere kids go. Every day, a preschooler sees 11 food ads on television. I am a TV reporter-turned-freelance writer, and though it seem to be ironic for me to say so, I don't have a TV at home because I feel it does more harm than good to our children. Junk food advertisements are a good example. So far I have signed three petitions to boycott junk food marketing: Tell Nickelodeon to stop junk food marketing, no more junk in schools, and we are not buying it.