21 August 2013

Weaning off the Junk Food...

I have had many requests regarding this topic, how to wean children off junk food. It can be daunting at first to make the change however in the long run that change can be invaluable to the health and well being of all the family.

So often I have been in restaurants to be amazed at the difference between the children and adult menus. Whilst the main menu is filled with fresh produce, homemade dishes full of variety and colour, the children’s menu is usually a monotonous brown full of oily, breaded and overly seasoned produce – the majority of which has only travelled from the freezer to the deep fat fryer.

Is this really what we want our children to grown up with?
Will this provide them with the nutritional benefits that they need at this important stage in their lives?

If children have never been given junk food on a regular basis, they will not have anything to compare freshly prepared meals to. They will therefore be more willing to try new fruits and vegetables and consume a varied, healthy diet.
Starting children off from the beginning is easy, however once children have acquired the taste for junk foods it can be a little bit more difficult to make the switch – that is not to say it isn’t possible. As Audrey Hepburn once said, ‘Nothing is impossible, even the word says I’m Possible’. With kind perseverance, creativity and communication you can make that shift for the highest good of all the family.

So how do we go from chicken nuggets to freshly prepared home cooked meals?

Communicate: Talking to children about the importance of good food can help them to understand why rather than them reacting to the ‘because I said so’. Explain why a particular food is good for them in a way that they can relate. For example…whole grains can give you lots of energy and strengthen your brain power when you are at school. Notice how that will provoke a different reaction compared to ‘eat your porridge because I said so’.
Slowly Does It: Start to create home cooked versions of the junk food favourites. Not only will you reduce the salt and sugar intake, you can be in control, slowly making the junk food versions less childlike and introducing children to home cooked meals that can be enjoyed by all the family. Making your own fish fingers can be quicker than you think. Simply cut some skinned and boned Cod or Haddock into long strips and coat with a beaten egg and bread crumbs. This can be placed on a greased baking tray and cooked until crispy and golden brown. A great way to serve this can be with sweet potato wedges and peas or in wraps with salad and avocado dip (see Recipe section of blog for dip recipe).
Get them Involved: There is no greater way to get children interested in food than with getting them involved with the preparation process. Make it a fun game, for example you may pretend to all be sailors on a ship making your own fish and chips as the pirates have stolen all the fish fingers. Think outside the box and be creative. If it doesn’t work be flexible and try something else! This also helps children to become aware of where food comes from and how it is prepared which can prove invaluable when they are old enough to cook for themselves.
Experiment, have fun and get them involved. Notice what changes and keep persevering. If they don’t like it one day it doesn’t mean they will never like it for the rest of their lives. Continue without bribery or force whilst remaining kind to yourself in the process. It is never too late to make a change and sooner or later you will see results.


  1. There is the preconceived idea that children do not like 'adult' food and that they only become used to it with a great effort and with a lot of time. Then a vicious cercle begins: as we want them to eat 'something', we prepare them 'what we think they want' (=industrial, junk food), and then, as they become used to it, it is more and more difficult to change.
    My personal recommendation is to avoid these entrenched ideas, from the begining. Why do we assume children will not appreciate 'real' fish? This is simply a prejudice.

  2. Thanks for your feedback Elisa. Well said!