The other day a friend asked me how to get their 5-year-old to stop eating junk food all the time.
I asked him where his daughter was getting and eating those foods.
“At home.”, he said. “She just gets it herself before I know it.”
I waited silently for a moment, to let that sink in, and sure enough he smiled at me and said “Never mind”.
If you find yourself asking a similar question, have a look at where your child is getting those foods. If they are in your home, the answer would be simply to purchase less of those foods. If you don’t bring them into your home, she can’t go get them to eat. And let’s not overlook the value of modeling behaviors and demonstrating healthy choices.
Essentially, remember that you are in complete control of what is in your fridge and cupboards.
No, really; true story.
Even if you do have a stash of treats and snack foods stored away in the pantry, keep in mind that young children still need direction when it comes to making healthy food choices and there should be family rules about accessing the cupboards. This might seem old-school, but I don’t believe children need to be helping themselves to food until they can clearly demonstrate that they will (most of the time) make wise choices.
We don’t let them leave the house in the morning to just decide how they want to spend each day, because it is our job as parents to direct them to activities that will be beneficial for them in starting out life (like going to school). So, why would we let them make everyday food choices when the impact is as great, as proper (or lack of), education. Those are our decisions to make on their behalf.
We have an almost 9 year old who has never helped herself to anything in the cupboard or fridge, aside from milk or water. I do think she would make mostly good decisions if we gave her the reigns, but we also eat as a family the majority of the time, so if she chooses not to have much of what we’ve eaten for lunch (for example), she isn’t welcome to just go and make or choose something different to eat 20 minutes later. We don’t want to set her up to believe that she shouldn’t bother to focus on eating with us, or trying the meal and eating enough to sustain her, just because she thinks she can just go and choose something different shortly thereafter.
Additionally, the fact that when she is peckish, she still balks at the suggestion to go grab a piece of fruit, is a STRONG indicator to us that she is not quite ready to have the freedom of complete control over food choices. “Does it have to be a piece of fruit? Can’t I just have some chips?” Not that she doesn’t eat chips; we do sometimes…but if that is her go-to snack choice, then she isn’t ready to have unsupervised access to the pantry.
Just my two cents.