Think of the last time you were tired, and your child asked you for a snack.
What did you give her?
What about the snacks that you choose for yourself?
When you’re really hungry and need a quick fix – what do you tend to eat?
A fruit or a pack of biscuits?
For me, on days when I’m most tired I choose an unhealthy option over a healthy one. I’m fully aware that the health benefits of a salad outweigh the convenience and quick energy boost of a pack of biscuits, but I choose the biscuits anyway.
I console myself with the knowledge that I’m (apparently) not alone in this predicament – a lot of you seem to share this confusing dilemma called ego depletion. Ego depletion means that we have limited amount of self-control and after a harrowing day (or excessive workload, distraction, etc.), we make poorer decisions.
So, what does this nugget of self-insight have to do with teaching our children how to make healthier options? It implies that just as we struggle with making healthy choices as adults, our children face the same challenges as well. They are tempted to choose cakes over apples too. However, we can take some steps to help them choose healthier foods.
Here are some tips:
- Give them only healthy alternatives when they ask you for a snack. By giving your children limited but healthy options, they are guaranteed to choose an option that is good for them.
- Keep healthy snacks in easy-to-reach areas because when nutritious food is more accessible, they’re more likely to eat it. This could mean a bunch of bananas on the dining table or a box of nuts in your child’s room.
- Keep healthy snacks in visible areas because when your child is hungry and looking for something to eat, she is more likely to choose the option that she can see. This could also mean, for example, keeping dried fruits in transparent jars.
- Plan for a healthy snack by making the arrangements before your child asks. This could be in the form of sliced melons (or pineapples, mangoes, etc.) in the fridge to be eaten on a hot day instead of an ice cream.
Do try these ideas and let us know if you’ve tried anything else that helps you and your child make healthy choices.
Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998). Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource?. Journal of personality and social psychology, 74(5), 1252.