5 steps to change your family's junk food habits
If you've been reading my articles for awhile, you know that I like to address things with a well-rounded view. To be sure that people who read, also understand the bigger picture, and can leave my page more WISE and educated. I include definitions, real-life stories, and many examples of what I'm making a point about to hopefully achieve this goal. So before I get to the 5 steps to getting rid of junk foods and changing the habits associated with them- I want to get us on the same page about what JUNK foods are.
Let's define JUNK food.
Junk: noun: old or discarded articles that are considered useless or of little value.
In the nutrition world, "junk" foods are foods that offer ZERO nutritional value for the health of the human body. In fact, there are many foods on grocery store shelves that nutritionists have termed "ANTI-foods." Anti-foods are foods that are high calorie, and yet offer the body little to no nutritional value, and are in fact, "dead" foods. They don't contain ANY of the original whole form of a real, sun-grown, energy rich food.
Crazy that the stores sell them, but its only because we are spending our money on them! Stores sell what sells. The stores aren't responsible for our health- we are. I'm going to insert a little power phrase here on my soapbox-
"VOTE to get rid of these foods with your dollars!"
Ok- so let's determine what JUNK foods and anti-foods you might already know, and might already have attachments to:
Oreos. Potato chips. Soda. Ice cream. M&M's. Reeses. Airheads. Jolly Ranchers. Jelly Beans. Doritos. Chips-a-hoy. And most anything else in those pretty little colorful plastic bags and packages on the "snack" isle at the store.
Those ^^^ are the obvious junk foods.
The following foods? Not so obvious junk foods: fruit juice, fruit snacks, french fries, salt-packed fast food cheese burgers or the salt and fat packed breaded/fried chicken, the salt-packed, high calorie fast food tacos and burritos or rice bowls with sugar laded sauces, Veggie straws/chips, most granola bars, most breakfast cereals, sugar packed yogurts and flavored milks, candy coated nuts, processed-frozen breakfast foods and dinners, refined pastas and most of the boxed "add burger or chicken" dinner options, cake mixes, puddings and jello, sugar packed canned fruits, white flour tortillas, white bread, processed meats like hot dogs and nitrate packed-salt packed lunch meats, sugar packed muffins and donuts, refrigerated biscuits, and many of the flavored, sugar packed ready made drinks available.
Are you thinking about what is in your pantry right now?
If you are like we were 7 years ago, we had almost everything on my second list of the not-so-obvious junk foods and 2-3 of the obvious junk foods regularly showing up on my pantry shelves.
Here are a few of the books I read that educated me on what was good for human health, and what was addictive, and destructive to my body and the precious bodies of my children.
I also watched several documentaries, most of which are included on this list:
This youtube recording is also one of my favorites about SUGAR
I highly suggest you watch a few of these and read some books as you make this change.
Well------ here comes the truth about HABIT change:
YOu won't change your habits unless there is an initial understanding and MOTIVATION to do so.
Bottom line? If you don't understand why a habit is going to ruin some future goal, you won't seek to change it.
If you aren't going to read any books or watch any documentaries? Lemme just sum it up for you:
You'll die early eating these foods. How? You will be opening the pathway for disease to overtake your body. Heart disease, diabetes, cancers, kidney disease, high blood pressure complications, and so much more. You will be sitting on the sidelines of life with an oxygen mask and 30 prescriptions and you will be a burden to your spouse and your family as you deteriorate and need multiple surgeries and struggle to recover and you'll die with them picking up the pieces of your choices. Choices that you COULD have changed. While you are alive you'll watch your children become diseased, obese, and struggle with anxiety and depression from the damage of too much sugar and false calm and joy from addictive foods. Don't be blind or feign ignorance to the FACT that what you choose in life, will roll over and affect the lives of your family in one way or another.
How was that? If you found that too far fetched, or to stark or you are shaking your head saying "Nah.............."
I encourage you to do your own research and learn for yourself.
SO--------- IF you are motivated to change, then here are the 5 steps to take to do so!
#1) Educate yourself and your family on the effects of JUNK foods, vs more whole foods.
After my spouse and I watched a few documentaries, and I read a few books, I determined to change our families nutrition choices. My husband was extremely wary, but in his heart of hearts, he knew that we were eating too much candy and chips and "white" processed foods. We had 4 children at the time (we now have 5), ages 8, 5, 4, and 1. I announced that we were going to have a family meeting to learn about foods. I took a poster board and after explaining the value of "live foods" and their affects on the body (health, immunity, strong bones/teeth, clean blood, a strong heart, kidneys and muscle growth, energy, good sleep, etc) we drew some of our favorites and colored them. I also educated them that there are FOUR food groups and what they do for our bodies- proteins, veggies, fruits, and grains. I asked them if there was candies and donuts and things like that in these food groups. They looked wide eyed and answered NO. Which then offered me the chance to explain that those foods are not actually FOOD for our bodies. They are simply fun treats we have sometimes. THEN, I asked the kids what we do with JUNK. They all agreed that we throw it out. It doesn't mean anything to us. I told them that there are foods that are JUNK to our bodies. They were amazed! I explained that foods with little to no fiber with lots of Carbs, lots of fat and sugar with little to no protein and more than 140 calories per serving, that are also DEAD foods, are the "junk foods" to our bodies. I took several of the packages from our own pantry and we looked at the labels. We looked for healthier foods that had more protein that sugars, and that had least 1 gram of fiber per 10 carbs. We discovered all the junk foods we had and we decided that although they taste good, we should not be eating them all the time. Only as a treat once in awhile. I explained that we would be having different snacks and dinners and they were all excited to have healthier bodies. I knew that they wouldn't full understand all the foods they would no longer find in our house, but this was a good foundational understanding we could come back to when surprises (dismay) happened.
#2) ADD in more of the good stuff and make the good stuff convenient!
There is a truth, in human learning and habit forming, that if it takes too long to think about it- you won't do it. Want to play your guitar more? Put the guitar in the center of your room instead of under your bed. Want to exercise first thing in the morning? Get the outfit and shoes out and put them on the bathroom sink. Etc.
Instead of just clearing out the pantry and going "cold turkey" with junk foods you've eaten for years- I suggest adding more good stuff as options first, and making them convenient. Buy a few more apples and a low sugar chocolate syrup, and then drizzle the syrup on top of a chopped apple for an "apple sundae". My kids love fruit sundaes to this day! At the time I first introduced them, I didn't mention that it was replacing their unhealthy sundae. I just offered it, and the lure of the chocolate syrup was enough that the lack of processed sugar and gums and colorants from the pudding and ice cream they were used to for a snack. Consider buying fresh salsa from the deli section instead of jarred, sugar-packed salsa from the processed food isle, and set it out on burrito night. No words needed. Choose to buy fresh bananas and set it out for breakfast alongside the cereal. Keep the bananas on the counter right in the middle and offer them as a quick snack, easily accessible. Add fresh, bright, orange baby carrots as a side on pizza night with a fun Ranch dip in the center of the table. Place a pitcher of lemonade made with TrueLemon powder (real fruit, no sugar) on the table with some pre-poured cups and just watch the kids grab it when the soda was "accidentally" left in the fridge or garage. When it's movie night, instead of the Redvines and m&m's, put out a bowl of lightly salted popcorn and fresh sliced strawberries with a fruit dip.
ADDING in more good stuff, will help your family see that they won't go hungry, and in fact can still enjoy eating its just different foods offered.
#3) Make the junk food inconvenient. This step is based on the ever truthful human mind training hack for bad habits: "Out of sight, out of mind." This means storing any cookies or chips up higher in the pantry or cupboard. Storing the soda in the garage unrefrigerated. Buying a basket that doesn't have holes to store the candy bags and cookie sleeves on the shelf. Buying the smaller container of ice cream and shoving it to the back. Buy the smaller bag of candy or chips so it just happens to run out before the next grocery trip.
#4) WEAN your family off of these foods by simply slowly eliminating them.
This process took just a few weeks for some foods and a few years for others. When it came to my husband's love of soda and candy---- it was years. But simply swapping out brown minute rice for white? Or brown rice pasta for the processed semolina wheat pasta? Even the white bread with whole grain bread---- it was only a matter of weeks. I am the grocery shopper in our house so I could control this process pretty much without struggle. My husband doesn't enjoy grocery shopping, and finds it annoying, so it works for us. I realize that other families will have to go about this step differently and I cheer and applaud every effort! YOU CAN DO IT. And yes, it IS WORTH IT. For us, I simply started making our regular pasta based dinners with the healthier pastas and pasta sauces immediately. The only remarks I remember was "this sauce is really good mom! Let's have this one every time." And "This pasta makes me really full. I took too much." ALL good things. :) When it came to the chips.... I simply bought one less bag (yes, we went through 3-4 bags a week) for a few months, then one less bag for another few months, and slowly my husband and kids were finding other snacks. It's important that as you wean off these junk foods, that you have replacements ready. When the addictive substance laden Doritos or potato chips run out- do you have whole grain crackers or plain corn chips or popcorn on hand to suggest? When the soda is gone, do you have no sugar flavored water on hand? When the candy is gone, do you have easy to cut up or fresh whole fruit to offer? I also slowly replaced our breakfast cereals that had over 8 g of sugar per serving to the higher fiber, low sugar ones and the kids didn't mind. I slowly added oatmeal to our breakfast rotation once a week, then added whole grain muffins, then added protein pancakes, then added a simple eggs with whole wheat toast or whole wheat french toast and my kids LOVE it. PLEASE read this article about how we took sugar out of our breakfasts here, it will open your eyes to the sugar that is in just BREAKFAST foods alone. Worth noting! It affects kids academics as well as growth and overall health. I suggest picking 1 thing at a time to replace per 2 weeks. Start with bread and get your family used to seeing, smelling, and tasting the new texture, then swap out the pastas and rices, then chips, then soda, then puddings and cookies, etc. It will take TIME> And some things will take quite awhile. But I can guarantee you based on all the evidence in the world that it is WORTH it!
#5) Continue to educate, notice changes, and point them out nonchalantly.
As you continue to use the whole grain bread and crackers, and you notice you get full faster or love the new recipe you tried, etc be sure to say those things out loud. "Oh this popcorn is hitting the spot." "Yum. This banana sundae tastes so good at the end of a long day." "I'm loving how I don't feel bloated after breakfast or feel my heart racing form the sugars. Interesting!" If your child has less attitude (totally happens!) because they are eating less sugar and empty carbs and getting better nutrition, you can simply say in passing "I appreciate that you've been calmer today. It has helped the family a lot." or "You haven't called me from school because of a headache for 3 months! Thats wonderful. I'm glad things are changing for you." BOTH of these I have genuinely said as we've changed our families junk food habits. Pointing out the progress and the positive changes is the final affirmation that your family needs to see and hear to understand what is going on, and learn to appreciate it, and trust your judgement on these matters. As far as continuing to educate, I pointed out to my elementary age kids that the "My Plate" model that that government teaches is not clear on WHAT to eat, which is a key reason our nation's nutrition understanding is ridiculously immature. We have alllll the resources and science evidence we need to make an educated decision about our human health, and yet too many of us are saying, "no thanks." There is a problem there my friends. We are relying too heavily on outside sources to guide our decision making. Get educated and educate your kids! Don't leave this one up to the schools or grocery store ads or promises of health from food packaging. Learn to read labels, help your kids read food labels, vote for healthier foods with your dollars. SHOW your family what is important. You know what is COOL about all of this? Some people tell me that its just going to be too hard- the damage is already done, they'd rather die happy than die old and able. REALLY??? You'd rather die diseased and struggling and in your 60's versus sitting in a room full of healthy family members and grandchildren and great-grandchildren having traveled and climbed and ran and jumped and had energy to the end???
I've heard it said that your priorities can be found in your bank statement, and I feel that is true. I also feel that the statement "Your financial security, is your physical and mental health." This is also true. If you aren't physically and mentally ABLE, you can't work or create. Your ability to generate income opportunities are endless as long as you are healthy.
So do a little AUDIT on your priorities.
Are you helping your family be active?
Where can the evidence of that be found in your budget?
Do you have good shoes that you bought? Bikes? Gym membership or online gym membership? Dance lessons? Climbing gym date night? Boat rental for the local lake? Enrollment for the next community 5k walk/run for a cause?
Are you helping your family eat heathy? Can we find fresh produce on your grocery receipt? Will we see you chose the Zoodles instead of noodles at the local pasta place? Did you bypass the fast food run for the apple sitting in the console of the car paired with that dense nutrition powder you bought that can quickly mix into your water bottle? Are your kids packing pudding or pineapple? :)
I can't share enough of the GOOD things that changing our junk food eating habits and "putting my money where my mouth is" has done for us.
NO one in our family is on prescription medications.
That wasn't the case 7 years ago.
NO one in our family is obese.
That wasn't the case 7 years ago.
NO one in our family has chronic head aches and migraines.
That wasn't the case 7 years ago.
And so much more.
Friends. Reach out if you would like support with this! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you'd like to change and I'll help you formulate a plan based on your family's habits and desires and support you through it! If you'd like to work through a nutrition based program, and really LEARN about healthy foods, how they work in the body, and HOW to change your food habits by changing how you think about foods, this program is for you: 2bMindset. Go HERE to get your hands on it! It was life changing for me!
Love and Belief,