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Food and Older Kids: When You Cannot Control What They Eat

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Does your 9-year-old insist on you packing the same kind of school lunch everyday? Does your tween binge on junk food with his friends and then claim he’s too full to eat dinner?

As our child grows up and spends more time outside home, we have less control over what they eat and how much they eat. We cannot try to convince or pressure them to eat healthy the way we did when they were younger.

But, our growing kids need good nutrition more than ever. They are more active and going through a growth spurt, so their nutrient and energy requirements are much higher than adults. Healthy eating can help them maintain a healthy weight and avoid eating disorders, stabilize their energy and sharpen their mind and even help prevent mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and ADHD.

So how do we ensure that they get their wholesome nutritional requirements while also allowing them to exercise their independence over their eating?

1. Don’t ban fun snacks, make them healthier

Our kids might see their friends eating chips or sweets in their school lunchbox, and might feel we’re being unfair. Instead of avoiding the tasty treats, opt for healthier alternatives eg. Baked crackers, popcorn, homemade granola bars, low-fat muffins.

2. Allow for a weekly treat

Canteen food with its overly salty and sweet prepackaged food can be terribly unhealthy. But we cannot always forbid our kid to buy from the school canteen, especially when his friends eat it regularly. So rather than avoiding it completely, we can allow him to buy it once a week, so he can indulge his cravings without feeling deprived.

3. First healthy, then a treat

Doting grandparents cannot help but ‘spoil’ their grandkids with sweets. On play dates or sleepovers, we cannot prevent treats. But what we can do is, instill from an early age, that they need to eat something healthy first, before they can indulge. So grandma’s treat AFTER dinner or first a fruit, then ice-cream.

4. Prepare them for parties

At a birthday party, it’s impossible to control them from bingeing. Usually, the food is brought out at the end, which means by the time it arrives, the kids are ravenous and more likely to gorge on French fries than carrot sticks. So we can make sure we give him a healthy snack before the party or outing. Also at the party, we can encourage them to choose wisely from the buffet. Eg. carrot sticks as well as fries, sandwiches as well as nuggets, and fruit juices rather than fizzy drinks.

Mums, we should also lead by example and demonstrate healthy eating at home. If our child sees a lot of healthy options at home, they are more likely to make wiser food choices when they are on their own.

Do you have any tips to help your child eat healthy? Please share them with other mums in the comments section below.

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