How to Instil Healthy Eating Habits Over Time?

Instilling Healthy Eating Habits, Mission Impossible?

The picture below represents what I just saw on my kitchen counter.

processed food in my kitchen

Does this ever happen to you? For those who do not recognize these ingredients, let me assure you, they do not belong in the kitchen of a whole food advocate. Pictured here is whipped topping, in all its hydrogenated fat and corn syrupy glory, and a ready-made chocolate crumb crust prepared by elves. Apparently, these are not traditional elves as they are also really into hydrogenated fat using both modified palm kernel oil and shortening for their crust. Then there is a can of condensed milk which is the equivalent to sugar on crack. And finally a bag of mini-snickers and believe me, there are many times I have wanted to tell my niece who purchased these items to “eat a Snickers because she gets a little cranky when she has not eaten”, to quote the commercial.

So despite my best intentions, even I cannot keep my home free of the worst of the worst

I tell you this because many people are trying to eat better quality, cleaner foods and want their family members to do the same. But sometimes, things just do not go our way.

My house is regularly stocked with items that could produce the best of the best desserts with all the rich decadence one could ask for. There is always plenty of butter, chocolate and whipping cream plus an array of natural sugars and flours, all organic. These are used frequent by my niece so buying these artificial atrocities is really not necessary. However, apparently a picture on Pinterest speaks volumes and is responsible for the contraband in my house.

I think it is important to say at this time, aim for progress not perfection. Don’t be embarrassed should this happen in your kitchen and do not give up. Change happens in small steps and an event like I experienced today could seem like utter failure. However, I have seen it before and generally with every misstep, there will be several other steps in the right direction. This may be frustrating, especially for parents, who want the best for their children.

As children grow up they start asserting their independence and this is a normal part of growing up.

In a cohort study published in the American Journal of Health Prevention, researchers interviewed 291 children in the third, fifth and eighth grade. They found that over the years soft drink consumption increased, and fruit and vegetable consumption fell. This makes perfect sense, because, as I am sure we all can remember, by the time we are in the eighth grade, we have more freedom, some money in our pockets and we can finally buy things that would not receive parental approval. Losing a battle, especially once children are teenagers, is not the same as losing the war.

But this does not last. A study of college level students found that eating habits in college mirrored habits established in childhood including what types of food made a meal, the timing of the meals and if they had been taught to “clean the plate” as an eating habit, they still ate all the food on the plate.

So take heart and keep doing what you are doing to influence family members.

It may seem that you are not making any progress but this is a long race over a slow track. Bad habits take time to break and new habits need time to become entrenched. There is also a lot of social pressure and outside influence in the media that makes crappy chemical-filled foods seem more appealing than they are. It should not be surprising that family members are tempted. So, do not be embarrassed if food enters your home that makes you gag – stuff happens. Just smile, enjoy the irony of it and then let it be. More importantly, keep doing what you are doing. It will all work out in the end.

We want to hear from you!

Have you ever had a similar situation? Did your husband or kids bring something you don’t approve of home? How did you react? How did they react? We’d love to read your story, so feel free to share it below this post!


  1. How Do Children’s Eating Patterns and Food Choices Change Over Time? Results from a Cohort Study.Leslie A. Lytle, Sara Seifert, Jessica Greenstein, and Paul McGovern (2000) American Journal of Health Promotion: March/April 2000, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 222-228.
  2. Comparison of college students’ current eating habits and recollection of their childhood food practices. Branen, L., & Fletcher, J. (1999, Nov/Dec). Journal of Nutrition Education, 31, 304-310.

Reposted with permission from Lorene Sauro, RHN,