The argument for more junk is based on changing kids’ attitudes towards new foods, and not on the nutritional value of junk food.
Why more junk?
- Many children are reluctant to try new foods.
- Reluctance, resistance or refusal to try new foods is a mental/emotional barrier masquerading as a taste barrier.
- Most kids like junk food and, therefore, are open to trying new junk food.
- Once children become more receptive to exploring new junk, the mental/emotional barrier softens. Non-junk new foods are now less intimidating.
Common tips for encouraging children to eat healthier foods instead of junk focus on the food more on the feelings. The idea behind modeling healthy eating, limiting junk food in the house, gardening, cooking together, etc. are all based on the idea that, in the right environment or context, children will summon the courage to taste new food, and that that new food will be so awesome that kids will want to start eating it.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against any of these tips. Modeling healthy eating is a good idea (especially if it improves your diet), gardening and cooking together are fabulous. And yes, it’s important to teach children how to fit junk food into their diets in a way that works, and that usually requires reducing the amount of junk food in the house. But these ideas are implicitly based on the idea that children who are afraid to try new foods will somehow (and I would say miraculously) overcome their internal caution and concerns and they’ll do it on their own.
More junk really means different junk.
In an effort to teach children to enjoy new food, we don’t want to abandon the lesson that junk has a small place in the diet. This is a lesson is the principle of proportion.
Use junk strategically: Explore new flavors of old favorites. Read Take a Walk on the Wild Side for ideas like Buy a box of Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins and do a blind tasting.
Or, use a subscription service like SnackCrate. I haven’t tried this service and I’m not endorsing this service. In fact, I had never heard of this service until INAN reader, Tricia, sent me the info when it came on her radar.
I LOVE the idea of this service. Once a month you get a box of snacks from a different country. Imagine, snacks from France, Japan, India. How cool is that? I’ve done a lot of traveling with my daughter and she loves going to the store and seeing what is available. Think sausage or shrimp flavored chips. But you don’t have to be that extreme.
Once children think new foods aren’t so scary, and once they think new foods are worth exploring, you’re only a hop, skip and a jump away from the foods you care about. Yes, chips can lead to carrots!
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~