20 years ago a treat was indeed a “treat”. Eating out was a special occasion and childhood obesity was rare. Fast forward and today instead of the “Milky Bar Kid” we have the “Junky Food Kid”. Junk is in town every day!
Marketing and kid power have overtaken us. Busy lives and juggling the work-life balance coupled with stress have allowed us to take our eye off the ball.
I’ve done it … pizza and chips for the kids on the way home from a tiring day at work. Giving in to the whining demands for Doritos whilst shopping. Failing miserably to stop raiding of the biscuits and chocolate stash whilst I’m busy on the phone. Anything just to shut them up… it’s never ending the demands for junk. A finger of fudge is no longer enough to give your kids a treat.
Our beloved prophet Mohammed Salay lahi Allaihi Wassalam PBUH said that there will come a time when obesity will be the norm.If we look around us today that is exactly what is happening.We seem to have forgotten an important cornerstone of Islam regarding excess.
The Prophet SAllayalahi Wassalam said, “The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. A few morsels that keep his back upright are sufficient for him. If he has to, then he should keep one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for his breathing.”
(Tirmidhi1381, Ibn Majah 3349)
This concept is widely supported by experts today – portion control, drink more water, eat whole grains, avoid processed products and sugar. We all know what we should be doing, yet why do we struggle to implement it in practice?
Perhaps, like me, you feel powerless and overwhelmed about where to start …you know the junk habit is spiraling out of control and you have to do something about it.
Personally, It’s been helpful to take a step back and analyse the situation honestly. For me, t was a case of stress due to my lack of organisation and relying on some easy quick fix options for meal times. Determine the hurdles and tackle them – I did and today I am less stressed, with happier, healthier, and energetic kids. You can do it too with my practical tips below.
Top 10 Tips for ditching the junk:
Realise that it’s your responsibility to make the right food choices for your child until they develop an understanding and habit of choosing healthy options. Children need guidance and help to learn and implement healthy eating. Ask a child what they want and the answer is usually sweets, crisps, ice cream,pizza, nd chips! When did your child ever say broccoli cabbage,carrots or brown rice?!
- Time management
I am not going to lie to you; it’s tiring and heavy work bringing fresh fruit and vegetables, especially if like me you walk everywhere! Real food also requires more time – buying, prepping, cooking, washing up etc… make sure you buy all your ingredients before hand and set aside some time in the week to prepare meals – I often batch cook and freeze portions in tin foil containers. My kenwood food processor is my best friend! Fab for chopping onions, garlic ,tomatoes and vegetables in a flash.
- Don’t listen to the Lazy Devil!
Shortcuts and a getby attitude is not going to help you. Be super organised for those hungry times when you are out with the kids. Take their favourite fruit/sandwich with you and especially water from home AT ALL TIMES even if you will be out for only 10 mins. Believe me the day you say you will be alright it’s just a short trip.. it won’t be! Happens to me every time!
- Tackle hunger
Feed your child at home BEFORE going out shopping and remind them they have just eaten. Hungry children and Asda is nightmare for us adults and Heaven for the supermarkets!
- Don’t deprive
Please realise that junk food is actually an addiction that needs weaning off and you are likely to fail miserably if you don’t take this into consideration. Children’s brains are constantly overwhelmed by the sheer abundance and variety available. Moreover constant advertising bombards their brains stimulating a desire for food.
small changes are OK, don’t feel that you have to change everything all at once. Remember it’s all about fostering new habits. Introduce unfamiliar foods slowly – keep offering them to your child along with their favourite meals. Do not give up and let your child stay hungry- it’s a recipe for disaster! Children are more likely to miss meals by saying they are not hungry if they know they can get away with a packet of crisps later on.
- Pack in more protein at every meal.
One significant change that makes a world of difference is a protein packed breakfast. Why not ditch the sugary cereals and butter toasts? Try poached egg on toast with a side portion of mushrooms, avocado and tomatoes. Use Leftover protein from the day before for breakfast- It doesn’t really matter – just get going and make a start with whatever protein your child likes. Mince on toast is a firm favourite in my household. The protein will power them through the morning and improve concentration at school, preventing hunger pangs until it’s time for lunch.
A research study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (1) discovered that people who cook at home consume fewer calories every single day and also tend to consume fewer calories when they eat out as well. The reason being that cooking at home helps us practice portion control. In addition breakfast helps in establishing how you consume food for the rest of the day.
8. Educate your child from an Islamic prospect regarding overeating.
Empower your children and foster trust and independence to make the right food choice! … remind your child about the Hadith regarding the stomach and saying Bismillah before eating and Allhumdollillah upon finishing.
9. Introduce good eating habits early
Try eating only sitting at the table and set regular meal times. Routine is key to developing a habit. Discourage eating on the go and train your child to leave a gap between meals guiding to recognise real hunger queues. Sometimes it’s actually thirst that needs quenching, so offer water. After meals, my kids would often say they are still hungry in the hope that I will cave in and give them the biscuits or sweets from the treat stash. After all, I’m tired of cooking and have a mountain of washing up to tackle -They have caught me when I’m trying to clear up and preparing for winding down. I’ve gotten smarter and more resilient now – I offer more extra of the meal they have just had! Amazing how they have stopped saying they are hungry!
10. Focus on Activities
Of course, nowadays we tend to eat out more as a form of relaxation. I tend to make this a rare occasion so that they can really enjoy the food with out restrictions. Focus days out on activities rather than food. Go to the park or cinema without the pre-conceived idea of eating whilst out. I tend to go out after Lunch or Dinner and take water and fruit with me. It’s all about retraining your brain and theirs will follow automatically. Children learn by example.
The above changes have helped me enormously. If I can do it then anyone can! Doesn’t matter what your child’s age.
It’s taken me almost 2 years to help my kids to kick the junk habit and make healthier food choices for themselves. The key to my success has been preparing meals in advance and especially ensuring kids are fed on time with real homemade food. Of course, bad habits die hard and junk beckons enticingly often close to meal times. I am ready, sitting there by the fridge and biscuit cupboard just in time to “catch” them on a raid. “Hungry? No problem …dinner on the table in 5 minutes!”
I hope I have inspired you to help your children develop healthy eating habits with my tips. May Allah (SWT) grant us all the strength to succeed in this matter and benefit from this Sunnah In Sha Allah.
Guest Post by FB who is a mother of 3 children aged, 18, 11 and 9
(1) Wolfson JA and Bleich SN. (2015). Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention? Public Health Nutrition