I make my 7-year-old’s meals, including a packed lunch for school. I know I can’t be in control all the time, but how do I know she’s not eating other kids’ junk foods during lunch hour?

You may pack a great, healthy lunch, but what happens at lunchtime? (familyfreshcooking.com)

The best way to find out if food items are being traded is to ask her.  I find that having an honest dialogue with kids is a lot easier than you’d think.  Firstly, during your conversation, don’t emphasize the difference between the “healthy foods” you’re packing for her and the “junk foods” the other kids might be eating.  Kids inevitably want the forbidden stuff that satisfies their salt cravings or sweet tooth!  Be careful not to make her think that she’s somehow missing out.

I always talk to kids about natural foods that come from the farm (or garden) and the artificial foods that are made in factories.  Even kids understand that we’re supposed to put natural foods inside our bodies.  Read the ingredients on labels (you can even do this with your kids, or let them read the label to you if they’re old enough) and determine if it contains natural ingredients that are good for the body or not.  We play a fun game at HealthBarn USA called Cereal Detectives, which is all about playing “I Spy” with cereal labels.  Search for natural and artificial ingredients, and investigate how much added sugar is in your breakfast cereal–I’m sure your 7-year-old will love the game!

Activities like this really help highlight for kids what’s in their food.  And once they know why something isn’t good for them, they’ll gravitate toward food that is good for them!  So, while you can’t watch every bite your daughter eats at school, you can give her the tools to know how to make healthy choices, even when you’re not around to help.

– Stacey Antine, MS, RD, author, Appetite for Life, founder, HealthBarn USA, co-host, Family Food Expert Internet Radio Show, and recognized as top 10 dietitians nationally by Today’s Dietitian magazine for her work with HealthBarn USA

What puzzles you about keeping your family healthy?  Tell us what’s on your mind by emailing [email protected].  Stacey will answer those questions here weekly.

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