Photo Credit: Abdulla Al Muhairi via Compfight cc
Recently, both of my boys have been asking the question, “Is this healthy?” Billy asks, “Is hummus healthy? Are hummus and pretzels healthy?” Bobby asks, “Is yogurt healthy? Is pizza healthy? Is Gatorade healthy?”
Kids ask so many questions, and the way we answer them shapes the development of their beliefs and habits.
I’m not exactly sure why both boys have started to ask this question. I just know they keep asking. And it can be hard to give a simple “yes” or “no” answer when my primary concern is trying to instill them with a moderate view of food. Here’s how I go about answering their questions quickly, yet also with thought.
Hummus? Yes, hummus is healthy. It helps your heart. (FYI, Billy eats hummus almost daily for dinner. He loves it so much that he eats it with a spoon at times.)
Hummus and pretzels? Yes, hummus and pretzels are healthy—if you also eat other foods like chicken and pasta. (I say this because Billy refuses to eat chicken, pasta and other seemingly normal foods. It’s my small trick for getting him to try new ingredients.)
On a related note, I can honestly tell Billy that pretzels are healthy because the ones he eats (unknowingly, of course) are made of either whole wheat or spelt. When we refer to chicken, again, it’s organic and hormone-free. And pasta is organic and whole wheat. The kids don’t need to know these details, and I don’t specify this regularly. Healthy ingredients are simply the norm in our house, and I think the boys will get this message over time. I do not want to inundate them at ages 3 and 5.
At times, I think parents and teachers can make children overly—and unnecessarily—anxious about the food they’re eating when using complicated details such as ‘whole wheat,’ ‘antibiotic-free,’ ‘hormone-free,’ ‘saturated fat,’ etc. Kids need to first understand the basics, like the difference between an everyday food versus a sometimes food. It’s okay to eventually teach them about the aforementioned specifics, but at the right time. Otherwise, your children could eventually rebel.
Keeping this in mind, I try to answer Bobby’s questions in this same manner. Greek yogurt is an everyday food in our home. The protein in yogurt helps us build muscles and strong bones. Pizza is a sometimes food, as long as we eat other foods like fruits and vegetables. Gatorade is a sometimes drink for athletes, like someone who is training for the Olympics or exercising at an intense level for more than hour. Yes, you can have a sports drink, but not every time you swim or skateboard.
So, as I’ve discovered, and as I hope you can see, the answer to, “Is this healthy?” is not a straightforward one. But you can use these small tricks for helping your children to understand what they’re eating in a positive and healthful manner. How do you answer your kid’s questions about healthy and not healthy foods? Do you use words like “everyday foods” and “sometimes foods” in your household?
For more information on everyday foods and sometimes foods, read A Blueprint for Your Child’s Nutritional Intake.