Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Does Banning Sugar and Junk Food Make Kids Want It More?

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

The most effective way to teach your child to love healthy food is also the simplest -- Give your child healthy food and don't give her junk food.  Children have an instinct to like food that they're used to.  They will learn to like healthy food because it's familiar.  And they won't like junk food as much because they aren't used to it.

Unfortunately, there is another instinct that children have that makes banning junk food difficult.  Children have a perverse desire to like things that are banned.  They become curious and want the forbidden fruit.

If you forbid junk food and sweets it may make your child want them even more. 

What can a parent do to get out of this dilemma?

Don't Keep Junk Food in the House

If you keep junk food in the house, but don't let your child have any, it will make her want the food even more.  She will see the package of Milky Ways in the top cupboard but she won't be able to get at them.  Her desire for the forbidden Milky Ways will grow and grow.  If she finally gets a chance to eat them, she will stuff herself until she is sick.

Scientists have found that showing children a food -- but not letting them have it -- makes them want it more.  They will work harder to get the food. 

It's Easier to Have No Junk Food in the House Than to Have It Occasionally

If your child knows that the top cupboard occasionally has cookies in it, every time she looks at the top cupboard she will think about cookies.  It's actually easier to make your house a no-junk-food zone than to cut down on the junk food.  Your child simply won't think about sweets and junk food when she's at home. 

Don't Eat Junk Food in Front of Your Child

If your child sees you eating doughnuts, but she can't have any, she will really want them.  It will kick off her instinct to like forbidden fruit and it will also kick off her instinct to eat what someone else is eating.

If you are determined to raise a child who likes healthy food, you'll need to eat the same healthy food yourself.  Change begins with the parent.  If you have a weakness for rocky road ice cream, hide it in the back of the freezer and eat it after your child goes to bed.

Have a Casual Attitude Towards Junk Food Outside the Home

We live in a junk food culture, and when your child goes to friends' houses, buffets, or parties, she will be inundated with junk food.

Let your child occasionally eat junk food when she is at somebody else's home.  If you forbid your child to eat birthday cake at a party, you will make it into forbidden fruit.  She will also feel like an outsider.

Convey the attitude that junk food and sweets are simply not something that your family buys and brings into the house.  Give the impression that your family simply isn't interested in junk food.

Your No-Junk-Food Child Might DESIRE Junk Food More, But Not LIKE It More

If your child rarely gets sweets or junk food, she may seem to like them more because she gets excited when there are brownies or cupcakes at a party.  Her friends are more casual about it because they eat desserts every day.

Don't mistake this excitement for actually liking the dessert more.  Since she only has it rarely, even if she doesn't really like it, she will feel cheated if she doesn't grab it when it's there.

A Sneaky Trick You Can Use
You can take advantage of your child's instinct to be interested in things that are forbidden.  You can lure your child into trying turnips, for example, by eating them in front of her and saying "No, these are only for me.  You can't have any."  She will immediately beg for a turnip.  After protesting for a while, you can say "Well, ok." and give her some.

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on amazon.com.

Related Articles

Why Children Like Processed Food and What Your Can Do About It
Children Like the Food They Grow Up With

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  3. cool article, my parents were health food fanatics and my mom was a little bit of a hypochondriac. She said I was allergic to wheat and artificial colors and flavors would give me seizures ( I had infantile epilepsy) I eat normally now and consume everything with no problem. I was kept away from sweets, which made me want them more because I did feel segregated and isolated from other children because of my diet. However , when artificial sweets were available to me later I simply didn't like them. For instance I hate skittles. I'll eat em..but I would rather have a snickers or m&m s...I hate artificial sweeteners like in anything low or non fat ..I think that fake sweeteners are bad for you personally. But personally I hate the taste. I love natural sweeteners like honey. But taking a relaxed role toward's it will help a kid feel better about them selves and others..you shouldn't ban any food from your kid, you should just overly encourage the healthy ones! ;) and that's my take on it!

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