I’ve seen it plenty of times—and it’s never pretty. I’m talking about the all-too-common supermarket showdown that pits child against parent. I’ve watched as humbled parents throw up their hands in defeat, tossing their last-choice snack into the cart to quiet a toddler’s tantrum. You’ve likely witnessed a supermarket meltdown—or perhaps, you’ve even experienced one yourself.

Taking your kids or grandkids with you to the supermarket can offer more than its share of setbacks. With all of the flashy, colorful, and sugary options lining store shelves, your little one is likely to try to push the limits and persuade, plead and pressure you into buying products you wouldn’t ever dream of bringing home. On the flip side, when kids are involved in the grocery shopping process, they’re more likely to want to eat the foods you’ve both selected later on. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re making the trip with any children in tow.

Just say no! Kids don’t fully understand the long-term consequences of unhealthy eating. It may be hard for you to say “No” in the moment, but consider this: Overweight teens often blame their parents for not setting stricter boundaries with regard to their childhood eating habits. It’s your job as a parent to be sensible and practical in the face of your child’s immediate desires. That being said, your child should feel they have some autonomy in the food selection process. So narrow down the options for your child by offering two OR three choices that you’re OK with, and then let your child decide which one they’d like.

Shop the ‘U,’ or the perimeter of the supermarket. The healthy options (fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, dairy) are located here, while the not-so-healthy (not to mention, more expensive) options are located in the center aisles.

Stick to the basics in the cereal aisle. One of the most treacherous spots in the supermarket is undoubtedly the cereal aisle. First, there are just so many options—it can be downright overwhelming. Second, it’s all too easy for your child to fall prey to the advertising strategies of shiny, colorful boxes laden with free toys inside. (In fact, the repeated exposure your child receives from television commercials can greatly impact their choices. Needless to say, limiting commercial exposure will make your life easier in the supermarket aisle.)

When you’re picking out a cereal, remember to look for choices with at least 3 grams of fiber and no more than 5 grams of sugar per 100 calories. And keep it simple—rely on basics like Cheerios, Shredded Wheat, Total or Kix. Raisin Bran is another good choice; note the sugar level is much higher—nearly 9 grams per 100 calories—mainly because of the naturally occurring sugar in the raisins. You can then tailor your cereal of choice to fit the tastes and preferences of each family member by letting them add dried fruit, nuts, or even mix with other cereals! This personalization and control over their choices gives them a sense of ownership and even pride, which can go a long way toward steering them to a path of lifelong healthy eating.

Avoid adult supermarket temptations.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that we, as adults, aren’t susceptible to temptations in the grocery store. Certainly you’ve debated with yourself over whether to toss a certain product into your cart or not. What prompts this “should I or shouldn’t I” debate? Instead of the sparkly bracelet in the cereal box, it may be clever marketing claims, special deals or strategically placed products. Speaking of strategically placed products, I swear those rich dark chocolate bars at the checkout aisle call my name quite often.

No need to fret though-everything in moderation. If I skip over the caramel and milk chocolate covered toffee candy bar and treat myself instead to a dark (not milk) chocolate bar once or twice a month, I won’t beat myself up. After all, the antioxidants are good for my cholesterol and it may lower my blood pressure. Just keep in mind, all of the rules above apply to ourselves as well.

 

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