Cultivating Choosy Children



Considering the abundance of creature comforts and food choices in our country, it should be an easy no-brainer to just feed our children good food.

What makes it not easy?

We are inundated with tempting and unhealthy foods constantly, and somehow there is guilt associated with saying “no” to the day-after-day junk.  Why is this such a source of guilt?  As parents, we should embrace our responsibility to lead them in every way, not the least of which are nutrition habits.  We simply don’t have the luxury to X it off our list of what we impart to them.

The processed “food” industry creates inventory that is specially formulated to hook us, and ultimately our wallets.  It’s sad.  I am straight-up offended at what they are trying to sell me.  How stupid do they think we are?  Here is a telling clue:

This company is laughing all the way to the bank.
This company is laughing all the way to the bank.

Is this what it’s come to?  This is audacious.  We should all be offended.  And afraid.  Anyone seen Wall-E?

We have to teach our kids how to decipher truth from fiction.  Kids CAN reason.   Tell them why.  “Because I said so” only goes so far.  That statement will control their behavior for a while.  But if you want to instill into their hearts a reverence for their health, then you’ll have the “why” conversation with them.  Often.

quick reminder
quick reminder


–Show them the labels with the unreadable ingredient paragraphs and discuss the implications.
–Remind them that there are plenty of occasions in the outside world to eat an array of junk food; however, their home is an oasis for delicious real food that God designed for our best health.
–Use a lot of positive reinforcement: “I LOVE the way you picked that delicious snack, it’s going to make you feel wonderful!”
–And, you can pepper-in some occasional negative mantras as well: “Cookies make you fat and slow.”*  🙂 Just kidding.  But no really.

Kids appreciate the opportunity to make their own choices!  Everyone wants to have some sort of control over their circumstances–allow them to exercise freedom of choice when it comes to good food.  I have had much success telling my children something like this:  “You know, we had cake at the birthday party yesterday.  So, your choice of dessert is either fresh cherries, or ants-on-a-log, or some dried mangoes.”  Et cetera.   The simple opportunity to make their own selection goes a long way.  (It worked well this week on our recent vacation-tour of America’s finest gas stations, fast food restaurants and the world-class American feeding-trough we call Golden Corral.   I mean moving cross-country.)

The goal is to instruct our littles how to identify the unhealthy, and to be on the lookout for the ideal.  Avoid spotlighting what’s being withheld.  Strive to highlight all the delectable foods God has provided.

We have to move past the idea that eating healthy is somehow a deprivation!!  This is such a lie from the media and from the haters all around us.  It is a privilege to have access to healthful food and the means to provide it for our families.

In the immortal words of Melissa Hartwig: It’s not that effing hard.**  Do right by them, and point them in the right direction.  Yes, you may have some pushback, but with the right amount of reason and flexibility, it will come together.  What is more–they will anticipate getting to make a choice, and begin to initiate the conversation.

Stay with it.


*Words of wisdom spoken by C. VanWey
**I am preaching to myself.
Read more on getting your kids on board to a clean diet.
This is a brief explanation of what balance means.

9 comments on “Cultivating Choosy Children”

  1. I don’t have kids but I can only imagine the challenges of getting kids to eat healthy when everyone they are surrounded by probably eats the SAD. I constantly feel judged, singled out and having to defend most of my food choices because they are seen as abnormal to others. Like seriously! Why is eating cherries for a dessert considered abnormal but eating some chemically concocted sugar laden treat is? What world are we living in?? What is that frozen stuff you had a pic of?


    1. The frozen stuff is, well, I don’t know what it is. I saw it in our commissary and i just stood there, incredulous. I snapped a photo of it last summer, and just now got around to sharing it. I cant believe they have chemically altered ice cream and labeled it nutrition. They didn’t even bother trying to give it a creative name. Just pathetic.

      I think that people feel a little bit anxious about their own diet habits…Especially if they know in their hearts they have addictions that they have not gotten control of. It’s hard. I don’t want people to think I am judgmental. That has been hard since i have been a part of this blog. I generally eat what I am served. You don’t have to hog out, but it does look awkward to just stand there sipping water at an event, and I think you should keep your social graces intact. I don’t like to turn down food that someone has prepared for me. Relationships are more important than food. But in my home, I eat my way. And I don’t apologize for that.


      1. I agree that sometimes I might come across judgmental. And I’m not perfect, I agree being social and relationships are more important than having a perfect diet. I just recently wrote a post about how that’s basically the only thing that makes me eat things I wouldn’t normally eat.


  2. First, I’m so happy I found your blog! I have really enjoyed what I’ve seen so far. Second, this is such a great post topic! I often think about the ‘nutritional’ habits that were formed in my childhood home which included hostess cakes, chips, candy, and more! I think teaching your children moderation is critical and I love the suggestions you gave for providing choices with healthier options. I think as parents, we are also responsible for knowing what we are feeding our children and making sure they are getting good quality food. Thanks again!


    1. Holly,
      Thanks for reading! I am glad we see eye to eye. I Have enjoyed seeing my kids begin to assume responsibility for their habits. Here and there. It’s hard because somehow I feel I am depriving them of some experiences but in reality I have to remember its not a deprivation. Thanks for checking us out. Leigh


  3. Thank you. It was a good reminder after spending a week on vacation with family who provided less than healthy snack options to my children. Our kids are smart and giving them the reason behind the “No” will empower them with the information they will need down the road (“train a child in they way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it”).


  4. Wow great words. I was thinking about the challenge to changing the diet of our children. None of our children had an attachment to anything material thing but I imagine that it would be difficult like tearing away what they have become accustomed to eating. I have to remind myself that I owe it to them to teach myself and involve them in our food changes and empower them as well


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