With the abundance of pre-packaged convenience food available to them (and you!), it's easy to get in an artificial rut. When grocery shopping with kids, do your best to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store – where the fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy tend to be. Doing so minimizes the amount of gimmes you'll encounter as kids see their favorite cartoon characters plastered on pre-packaged foods. It also minimizes the amount of sodium-rich canned goods and carb-laden pastas you purchase, meaning you'll be serving up fresher, fitter fare to your family.
When selecting anything in a package – meat (including lunchmeat), juice, sweets, for example – be hyper-aware of the ingredients. Our family initially made the switch to a certain no-calorie soda because we thought we were being healthier. True, but the fact that a warning about phenylanine also graced the ingredient list made us think twice. We're pretty immune to difficult-to-pronounce ingredients but the fact that this one carried a warning warranted hesitation. You won't encounter many of these, but if the list of unknowns is greater than the nature-derived ingredients, buy with caution. This is a lesson easily taught when you live on the edge of the grocery store!
Along these lines, think closely about what you're buying and avoid unnecessary additives. Kids asking for chocolate milk? Explain to that it's cheaper and healthier to make your own chocolate milk since you can control the type of milk (go for skim or 1% for any kids over 2) and the amount of flavor. Add just enough syrup to tweak the flavor of the milk without going overboard. Kids will be none-the-wiser and you won't be left with a half gallon of spoiled cocoa.
Give kids a free pass on freshness by explaining to them the importance of including fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets. Encourage them to help themselves to these options at the dinner table first; this way their proteins and carbs aren't crowding out the healthier food options. Keep fruits and vegetables washed, sliced and readily available in the refrigerator so they're just as convenient as prepackaged goodies. Simply removing the stems from a pound of strawberries and keeping them in an open bowl in the refrigerator made it easy for my 4-year-old daughter to snack on berries instead of junk food.
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