It doesn’t really matter what your children eat.   What matters is how often they eat it. Whatever it is.

Stop worrying about broccoli or candy. It does not even matter if your kids consume Goldfish crackers, sweetened yogurt or juice.

What matters is whether your kids eat foods in proportion to their healthful benefits.  What kinds of foods do your kids eat most often?

Teaching your kids to eat right is kind of like baking cookies — it’s not enough to know the ingredients, or even to get them all into the bowl. You need the correct amounts of flour, sugar, butter and eggs in relation to each other to produce the ideal outcome.

Proportion matters.  Here’s an easy way to get it right:

1) Don’t think of foods as individual delicacies. Instead think of food in groups.  But…

2) Don’t use traditional groupings like dairy, fruit, meat, or protein, carbohydrates and fat. Instead, group foods by how frequently they should be eaten.

Category 1 – Growing Foods 

  • Fresh, natural foods that look basically like they did when they came off the tree, out of the ground, or from the animal.

Category 2 – Fun Foods

  • Growing Foods that have modified to make them moderates: French fries, creamed spinach, chocolate milk, sweetened yogurt.
  • High fat foods: cheese.
  • Foods that aren’t found in natures: hot dogs.
  • Snack Foods: rice cakes, crackers, pretzels.

Category 3 – Treat & Junk Foods

  • Ice cream, chips, candy, soda, sports drinks.

How does your child’s diet stack up? Most kids eat most frequently out of category 2, the Fun Foods.

The Nutrition Perspective.  Feeding your children primarily from Category 2 – Fun Foods – is like trying to fill a bathtub without a drain stopper: you never quite fill your kids with the healthy stuff because the overall nutritional values of items they are eating is constantly being drained away.

The Habits Perspective. Regularly feeding your children Fun Foods can undermine your ability to get them to eat Growing Foods.

  • Test this by asking your child whether an oatmeal breakfast bar is more like a bowl or oatmeal or more like an oatmeal cookie.  Better yet, do a blind taste test.

It’s important to manage Fun Foods.  Read More.

You probably never thought about your kids like cookies before, but look at all the similarities: both come in all shapes and sizes. All varieties are sweet and delicious. One satisfied some people whereas others can’t get enough. They both go great with milk!  And for both, proportion matters.

Remember, every chocolate milk makes regular milk a harder sell.  It’s not so much what you feed, but what you teach, that matters.