My article “How to Get Your Kids WANT to Eat Healthy” talks about getting your kids to want to eat healthy, and the value of “show and know” as a technique to do so. Here are 7 ways to amaze your family about the foods and drinks they consume that you can do in your home to raise awareness for your kids and family to another level. After each of these compelling demonstrations, start a family discussion about changing unhealthy eating habits.
1. The Sugar Pour
If you don’t have it in your house, buy a 10 pound bag of sugar (or two 5-pound bags). Gather the troops and set a big bowl on your dining room table. While very, very, very slowly pouring the sugar in to the bowl, talk with your family about added sugar, which includes high fructose corn syrup. Let them know that the average American consumes ten pounds of sugar every single month. That’s 120 pounds per year, more than most kids weigh. That sugar is found not only in cookies, candy, cake, soda, juice drinks and sports drinks, but in places you’d never think about, like ketchup, applesauce and crackers. As you talk, watch their faces as they will be shocked, which is exactly the reaction you want.
Go out and buy one small package of chicken nuggets (and don’t eat any one the way home!). With your family eagerly awaiting your next demo, give each one a nugget and ask them to break it in half and look inside. Ask them what it looks like. You may get comments like mashed potatoes, mish mash and “I don’t know.” Let them know that on average, chicken nuggets contain only 19% protein. Then, give them the list of ingredients. Ask them if they know what any of them are? Then, discuss replacing chicken nuggets with other better fast food alternatives.
3. Pineapple vs. Candy Bar Comparison
Hold up a portion of fresh pineapple that you’ve cut up (a small bowlful) and an average size chocolate candy bar. Ask your family which costs less. You might be surprised when some or all of them say the candy bar. The fact is that for the most part, a portion of fresh pineapple costs about 50 cents, while a candy bar is $1 and up. The key message is: fresh fruit is healthier, just as sweet and costs about half as much as an unhealthy candy bar or bag of potato chips.
Show this photo of french fries to your family, and let them know that kids and teens eat about 30 pounds of French fries and other fried potatoes over the course of a year. Buy a one pound bag of salt and tell your family that those 30 pounds of fries contain over a pound of salt and watch their reactions. As you’ve done with the other demos, talk about how bad fries are and why.