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Healthy Habits, Happy Kids
Healthy Habits, Happy Kids

By Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D.
(Revell, 2005)

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Good Nutrition for a Fast-Food Generation

By Gregory L. Jantz, Ph. D.
Author of Healthy Habits, Happy Kids

CBN.comIn today’s fast-food culture, when it comes to food, your family isn’t flying above the fray only to glide in smoothly each night to a home-cooked, healthy meal. No, there are McDonald’s, Krispy Kremes, and vending machines around every corner. To teach your family healthy habits takes seat-of-the-pants nutrition. They need to learn how to maneuver around unhealthy choices and be aware of hidden nutritional shears.

Please don’t think this means I’ve never taken my family to a McDonald’s, because I have. And my children know what a donut is. However, these items are occasional treats, not the staples of our diets, as my children learn the valuable concept of moderation.

Moderation and wise decision making can be modeled to your children in many ways, one of which is in your food and restaurant selection. You can now order healthier alternatives when choosing a fast-food restaurant. Items can be shared between children. Milk can be ordered instead of soft drinks. A small ice-cream cone can be chosen instead of a sixteen-ounce milkshake. Here are a few other suggestions:

  • Instead of grabbing the food from the drive-through, go into the restaurant, sit down, converse, and eat. Take your time to eat rather than making it just one more hurried activity between others. Allow your children’s stomachs time to register becoming full.

  • If the restaurant has a children’s play area, allow your younger children to engage in some activity after eating.

  • Choose a chicken selection over a burger.

  • Leave on the lettuce and tomato.

  • Ask for barbeque sauce instead of mayonnaise.

  • Look for fast-food restaurants where you can order alternatives to French fries.

  • Try a Subway or other sandwich shop that allows you to control what goes on your order.

  • Make a fast-food stop a weekend treat and go to a river, beach, or park to play afterward.

  • For yourself, look for a “junior” selection that usually contains everything that would be on a larger sandwich but in smaller portions.

  • Split the fries up and order a salad to share as well.

  • Choose a variety of fast-food restaurants instead of always choosing a particular one, and teach your children how to maneuver through each.

  • Choose ethnic fast food such as Chinese or Mexican. Look for local options instead of national chains where selections tend to be “Americanized.” Many ethnic choices incorporate a higher proportion of vegetables and leaner protein than is typical in American fast-food choices.

Within Limits, Not Off-Limits

Remember, children often find the “forbidden” things of this world highly enticing (we adults have similar propensities – see Genesis 3). Rather than declare certain restaurants off-limits, help your children make positive choices within those environments. For the youngest children, you needn’t explain your choices: they will eat what you order. Their joy is in the experience, not the food. As children grow, their ability to assert their own choice grows also, and it’s important to begin to fill in the “why” to positive and negative selections. For example, French fries taste wonderful, but they are full of fat and salt, which is not good for our bodies to grow as God intended. A few fries won’t harm you, but a lot of fries can, so you’ll be best off keeping those fries within healthy boundaries. Soft drinks are a popular choice, but they give empty calories that provide none of the essential nutrients milk provides or the hydrating power of water. An added bonus of including age-appropriate explanations to your children is the immediate reminder to you as you order your own meal!

These choices and the reasoning behind them need to be presented in a positive way; in other words, not as a self-righteous, we’re better than all these other people way but as a family choice, one that makes you happier and healthier. As Christians, your children will become very familiar with operating outside of societal, secular boundaries on many things. Incorporating biblical principles and faith into positive food and eating choices is just one more way your child learns that God is a caring, active Father, concerned about the welfare of his children.  It’s another way to exemplify that God knows the number of hairs on their heads and their every thought and is aware of all aspects of their lives, including what they eat.

Bottom line: think within limits, not off-limits. In this way, your children will develop critical reasoning skills and learn to be responsible for their bodies and their choices. Older children are certainly ready to begin an exploration of the miraculous way God made our bodies to work and to work best. You don’t need to leave this valuable lesson to the school system! But you may want to get a refresher course in Body Basics 101 from your child’s pediatrician, nurse practitioner, or nutritionist. Understanding how the body works is important so you can “translate” that into age-appropriate responses for your child. Look for resources at your local Christian bookstore that explain the physical body from a biblical perspective. Not only will you be gaining information for yourself, you’ll be able to provide the answers when asked the “why” questions.

Excerpted from Healthy Habits, Happy Kids: A Practical Plan to Help Your Family by Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D. Copyright © 2005 by Gregory L. Jantz.  Used by permission of Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, copyright © 2006. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.

Gregory L. Jantz is a certified eating disorder specialist and the founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources. Visit Dr. Jantz's Web site at


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