Ever since I saw photos of her hocking Girl Scout cookies outside of her local supermarket like Nancy Normal, I've been a bit obsessed with Jennifer Garner's parenting style. And after reading how Garner got her kids to ditch junk food, I fell even more in love. Helping little picky eaters make healthy choices is no easy task, but she makes it seem not only possible, but plausible.
In a recent interview with People, Garner described herself as "pretty strict" with her children — 12-year-old Violet, 9-year-old Seraphina, and 6-year-old Samuel — when it comes to junk food. But rather than fight with her children over what they can and can't eat, she simply keeps her home stocked with healthy snacks and leaves the junk at the grocery store.
“I’m not worried so much about junk food, because we don’t have it in the house — although I don’t want to be a freak about it, so that they just want to get their hands on it at all costs,” she said in the interview. “It’s more that you just want to make sure they’re getting a rainbow of flavors and of foods.” For Garner and her family, that rainbow includes all sorts of fruits and vegetables.
Along with stocking her home with goodies, Garner also takes her kids to the source of their nutrition by their growing fruits and veggies themselves. She told People that when they grow their food, kids are sometimes more likely to eat foods that may have otherwise been avoided:
I think growing your own food helps. When I was a kid, I didn’t like tomatoes, but then my mom grew cherry tomatoes, and if I picked them straight off the vine, they tasted so good. My oldest didn’t like blueberries until we had blueberry bushes. Now in blueberry season we take colanders down every night and they bring their friends over and we pick.
Along with getting them to eat their greens, gardening with your children has another benefits: boosting their brains and bodies. A study cited by PBS found that children who gardened scored higher in science than those who did not. Additionally, time spent digging in the garden can help children get in some much needed physical activity. PBS reported that getting dirty could help kids in another way as well:
However, consider the “hygiene hypothesis,” a theory that a lack of childhood exposure to germs actually increases a child’s susceptibility to diseases like asthma, allergies and autoimmune conditions by suppressing the development of the immune system. So getting dirty while gardening may actually strengthen a child’s immunity and overall health.
Garner's love for gardening is not all that surprising when you consider the fact that she is a cofounder of the organic baby food line Once Upon a Farm, which has a focus on wholesome ingredients. Along with growing her own garden, Garner also keeps chickens that lay eggs. All of these home-sourced foods surely reenforce her healthy eating mantra around her house.
If gardening just isn't your thing, you can still encourage your children to make healthy food choices. Certified nutritionist and mother of triplets Julie Burns R.D., when writing for Parents provided a number of techniques to do so. For one thing, Burns recommends that parents lead by example:
If you're constantly on a diet or have erratic eating habits, your children will grow up thinking that this sort of behavior is normal. Be honest with yourself about the kinds of food messages you're sending. Trust your body to tell you when you're hungry and when you're full, and your kids will learn to do the same.
Additionally, Burns suggest that parents make and stick to an eating schedule, as well as including high fiber foods during breakfast. All of these steps can help the whole family get in the "rainbow of tastes and flavors" that Garner's family enjoys. Taking steps to promote healthy eating at home benefits everyone, regardless of how you do it.