The Dad/author considered a number of strategies and evaluated their efficacy:
- Saying, as his wife suggested, "it’s poison and you must never go there."
- Problem: (You can fill in the blank here, I imagine)
- Describing the problem of feedlots and factory farms
- Problem: Too scary for five-year olds?
- Michael Pollan's suggestion: teach kids about the marketing itself, explaining why the healthiest foods tend not be adorned with pictures of cartoon characters.
- Problem: Too complicated?
- Just say “No, we’re not going to McDonald’s.”
- Problem: Elevates fast food to an unattainable treat that makes kids want it even more.
- Tell kids how healthier foods do more to make them grow strong.
- Problem: Some kids don't care
- Reward healthy meals with toys
- Problem: “Research shows that bribing or rewarding kids for eating their vegetables can actually decrease children’s preference for these foods,” says Donna Pincus, director of Boston University’s child and adolescent fear and anxiety treatment program and author of “Growing up Brave.”
- The "Green Eggs and Ham" strategy. Keep asking and offering healthy options, over and over again.
- Problem: Can be exhausting and frustrating. But remains the ultimate strategy suggested by psychologists to divert attention and create longlasting healthy preferences.
(Not all the commenters on the WSJ post agree with me. As one of them wrote, "I just rolled my eyes so hard they almost fell out of my head.")
Although I don't yet have children, when I imagine how I'll feed and raise my future potential kids, I'd like to bring the same intentionality to their diets that I bring to my own. And yet, so many of the reasons that inform my own dietary practices are the result of many years of exposure and education. How to convey the same ideas and priorities to little kids, who don't have that deep foundation?
I'd like to think that, ultimately, offering a strong model is the primary way that we foster good habits (in all realms, not just food). Kids soak up the world and practices around them. If we don't eat at McDonald's, our children will likely rarely do so. If they go with a friend a time or two, they may like the hamburger (I loved the thin pickles and minced onions and American cheese when I was a kid. You didn't hear this from me, but there may even be photos of my 8th birthday at the local McDonald's floating around somewhere...), but it certainly won't become a regular part of their diets.
What do you all think?
How have you (or might you) cultivate good habits in those in your sphere of influence?