As much as we’d like to encourage our kids to make healthy food choices wherever they go, every parent knows that real life has its way of interfering. From snacks at playdates to seasonal treats during the holidays, making healthy choices isn’t always possible for your child—and in the grand scheme of things, that’s perfectly OK.
When it comes to your kid’s healthy eating, a little preparation can go a long way. Before an occasion where you know unhealthy options may abound, set expectations for your child by reminding them that they don’t need to eat everything sweet and salty in sight. You can also explain that every family eats differently, and that extra treats are OK every once in awhile. Preparing healthy snacks for your child can also prevent their impending carbo-load at the next family gathering.
Here we’ve outlined three common “real life” scenarios, their nutritional challenges and, most importantly, your plan of attack.
Scenario 1: The Special Occasion
Situation: Be it a birthday, holiday or family reunion, special occasions usually mean treats are everywhere.
Solution: Before you head out, try to have a healthy snack or even a full meal if the timing is right. While there, have your child pick a small portion of a few things to try. Remind them that they can always bring a few treats home for later rather than eating them all at once. This doesn’t mean you’re taking the treats away but that instead you’re spreading them out for the week.
Scenario 2: The Playdate
Situation: Your child is going to a friend’s house where you know unhealthy options might be offered. The playdate will likely last a few hours.
Solution: Offer to have your child bring a healthy snack to share. If the playdate involves a special treat, remind your child that they won’t get another treat later on in the day (in other words, stick to the one treat per day rule). Remember that if your child snacks throughout the playdate, they likely won’t be hungry for dinner, so don’t expect them to eat a full meal. Lastly, if you’re finding it’s a pattern that playdates center on food, suggest another activity to the host parent for next time.
Scenario 3: The Weekend Visit with Family or Friends
Situation: Your family is spending a weekend at another family or friend’s home. Your usual go-to foods aren’t available, and you have to improvise with whatever’s there.
Solution: Pack plenty of healthy snacks for travel both to and from the destination. Offer to bring a dish for the host family or help prepare meals once you’re there. Let the host know in advance if your child has any allergies or dietary restrictions. When it comes time for meals, prepare your child’s plate instead of letting the host do it.
You can still help your kids eat healthy at special events, with the occasional splurge; all it takes is a bit of preparation and attention. And don’t forget one of the best ways to encourage healthy eating habits for your child is to model them yourself.