One of the many problems with junk food is that it is usually full of refined sugar (or artificial sweeteners) which will always give us a bit hit of pleasure when we eat it, unlike healthy food that may have naturally occurring sugar in it that isn’t refined and doesn’t give us that big pleasure hit. Once children have experienced the taste of junk food, the healthy options aren’t as appealing, and because little people have a habit of remembering all the little things we don’t want them to remember, they are likely to start demanding the junk and kicking off if you refuse to give it to them.
Here is a simple guide to help you detox your children’s diet:
Go through your kitchen cupboards and throw away anything that is high in refined sugars and sweetener. Check for hidden sugar in things that look healthy, like cereal bars, fruit bars, breakfast bars, as you will be surprised how much sugar is added to these. If sugar is one of the first 5 ingredients, get rid! Also throw out any high fat foods like crisps. As long as any of these things are in the house, they are an option for your child’s snacks and you may be tempted to hand them out.
Throw away any breakfast cereals that have sugar in the first 5 ingredients and replace them with healthier alternatives like Weetabix or porridge.
Fill the empty space in your snack cupboard with something else. This could be your plastic containers or empty jam jars. Basically anything to fill the space so you can’t refill it with junk!
Find a big bowl and fill it with fresh fruit.
Find a decent sized jar and fill it with nuts (if you’re not allergic).
Pick a time for snacks. We usually recommend an hour and a half to two hours before a meal, so 10.30AM and 3.00PM usually work. Set an alarm for both these times.
When the Snack Alarm sounds, offer your children a choice of either fruit or nuts. If you have children who will always eat all their lunch and dinner even if they’ve eaten lots of snacks (unlikely if you’re reading this), you may want to offer some cheese, cold meat or nut butter on ricecakes/oatcakes.
If they ask for snacks at any other time, explain that they can have snacks when they hear the Snack Alarm.
If they kick off or melt down, don’t give in and give them an unhealthy snack or a healthy snack at a not-snack time. Instead, acknowledge their emotions and explain why you’ve decided to change the snack routine. Eg. “I understand that you feel cross that I’m not giving you your usual snack but we all need to have healthy snacks now.”
By restricting snacks to these set times, you will be giving your child enough time to become hungry for their main meals, so that they will eat a decent sized (hopefully balanced) meal. When they aren’t snacking on junk, you will find it easier to give them healthy, balanced meals too, because after a few days they won’t be craving sugar any more.
DON’T EXPECT IT TO BE EASY FOR THE FIRST FEW DAYS BUT IT GETS EASIER THE LONGER THEY GO WITHOUT JUNK.
If your child is a fussy eater, or has a very restricted diet, please get in touch with us as you may need more tailored help.