Advice from Abilene family on kicking the 'processed food' habit

Abilene family avoiding all processed food

ABILENE, Texas - With more processed foods taking over grocery shelves, it's not surprising to learn most kids don't eat even the minimum amount of recommended fruits and vegetables each day.

One Abilene family, however, doesn't have that problem, even though they know it's not easy to get little ones to "eat their vegetables."

"There are certain things you might think you can force kids to do, but eating is definitely not one of them," said Jenn Rogers, mother of three kids under the age of five.

She and her husband, Mark, have a simple philosophy when it comes to food: If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it!

"The easiest way we think of it is avoid foods that aren't found in nature," said Mark, former sports director at KTXS. "Vegetables, fruits, the girls get unlimited. Nuts and seeds in their raw forms are good. Organic grass fed meats is very important. Fat, the good fat, is not feared in this house."

"We have a rule: We would like them to taste anything, and if they don't like it, they can spit it out," Jenn said. "And they have, there have been things that they don't like and we'll try again later."

The key to their success? They started early, since the birth of their now five-year-old daughter,  and they stuck with it.

Pediatrician Rachel Anderson, also a mother of three, said many families, unfortunately, don't follow suit with the Rogers.

"Children have a lot of non-nutritious calories in their diet these days," Anderson said. "They come from fruit juices, soft drinks, Gatorades, sports drinks things like that. Processed foods have a lot of added sugars, high fructose corn syrups, sodium, etc.

"So they're high in calories but usually low in nutrition. Half of their plate should be covered in fruits and vegetables –about 50 percent of their diet, ideally four to five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. A serving size is about the size of a child's hand."

The Rogers also say it's not easy to kick the habit of processed food and for good reason.

"What happens when you eat highly palatable foods, high in salt, sugar that are really palatable, they taste great but there's no nutritional value," Mark said. "So if you cut out those things, it make take a few days, or weeks, but you'll find that if you're not eating highly processed sugary foods all the time, that a strawberry taste unbelievably good."

He also said making food fun helps but the most important thing is to lead by example.

"Kids are gonna eat what you eat," Mark said. "So if you're eating good food, and that's what's in the house, that's what's they're gonna eat. If you don't, they won't. I think in our culture today most of the food is from the pantry, because it's easy, it's cheaper, it's faster, it's more convenient.

"To us, we try to not do that. Would it be easier to throw a packaged lunch in for the girls? Yeah. I understand that. Does it take a little extra time to pack a lunch and go through that process? Yeah, but you just gotta look at the reward."

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