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Nutrition Coach Reveals Her Junk Food Rules For Her Kids: Give In, Crowd Out
ILLUSTRATOR Boizei Malicdem
  • “Who says your child cannot have junk food?” This is not a line that will likely come from a holistic nutrition coach like Renee Rose Rodrigo (who also happens to be a SmartParenting.com.ph contributing writer). But, she will be the first to say there are a hundred and one ways around this common mommy dilemma, and she shared a few tips during Smart Parenting’s latest series of Masterclass Toddler Expertips titled, “EAT: Make Your Child’s Nutrition A Priority.”

    Rodrigo says toddlers will always be curious, and it doesn’t help that junk foods are marketed and packaged in such a way that they pique children’s curiosity. So, before mommy can utter “no,” the child has already beaten her to it with “Mommy, I want to try that!”If it happens, go ahead and satisfy your child’s curiosity. Rodrigo says it’s a way of ‘educating kids through exploration accompanied by an explanation.’

    “If my son wants a cupcake or chips, we try it, and we ask him if it tastes good or makes him feel good. Sometimes kids don’t feel good after eating too much sugar or chips, so we want him to understand how his body is reacting to what he is eating,” she says, referring to her son 4-year-old Luca.

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    How to make peace with junk food

    Instead of saying ‘no’ all the time when your toddler insists on having some ‘bad food,’ Rodrigo’s advice is to focus on creating healthy food habits. Look for better alternatives that don’t completely take the fun we often get from eating junk foods.


    1. Don’t restrict ‘bad food’...or it just might backfire.

    “When restrictions are lifted from children after their toddler years, and they can taste this new palatable food, they are actually unequipped to manage their natural desire for it,” Rodrigo quotes a study.

    Such situations can happen when kids start school and are exposed to many kinds of food in the cafeteria, she adds. To manage this, she says it is important to allow children to try something new once in a while. “It’s okay to set limits, but remember that our children will constantly be curious.”

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    2. Look for healthier junk-food options.

    “When we travel, we often go to some health food store, and I know I’m going to buy my son some junk food. I’m like ‘Luca choose whatever you want,’ and he chooses gluten-free cookies or chocolates. He thinks it's junk food, but he doesn’t think that they are a healthier option.”

    Rodrigo says it can give parents like her more peace of mind knowing that her child is eating junk food but with healthier content by having less sugar, fat, or are gluten-free. She suggests alternatives like baked chips, organic products, artificial-free cereals, 100% natural products, and sugar-free candies.

    3. Keep a good balance of the good and the bad.

    “My favorite quote is ‘everything in excess is opposed to nature,’” Rodrigo says, referring to the famous quote by Hippocrates. She says that even if one eats organic food every day but if done in excess, it will not benefit the body. “It’s always important to think well-balanced especially for children who are still growing up.”

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    4. Practice ‘crowding out.’

    It means crowding one’s diet with good, healthy food so that there will be less space for junk. This applies literally to the food you keep in your kitchen and in what your toddlers take in.

    “As a nutritionist, we crowd out bad food. When I present food to my son, it’s fish, chicken, rice, and I let him eat a whole buffet. By the time dessert comes he can’t even finish a cookie,” says Rodrigo. Having said that, Rodrigo adds that parents should avoid making junk and sugary food accessible in the home.

    5. Make sure ‘connectivities’ are established at snack time.

    “Don’t allow them to eat food while watching TV because they will develop mindless eating.” Instead, she advises that parents practice mindful eating with their child. That means sitting at the table, looking at the food, and having a pleasant conversation.

    At the end of the day, allowing your toddler to eat junk food doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent, says Rodrigo. “His happiness is the most important thing because it releases good hormones. So if my son is happy when he has a ‘happy meal’ at fast food, then I am happy,” she concludes.

    A former beauty queen, Rene Rose Rodrigo is a US-certified holistic nutrition coach who is now living and working in the Philippines. The mom of two blogs about her lifestyle and wellness on Itsrenerose.com.

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