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Heidi Klum's right -- we should pay our kids to eat healthy food

Heidi Klum

When a girlfriend called me yesterday to say, “Oh My Gawd have you heard that Heidi Klum pays her kids to eat healthy foods?” I replied, “Oh that’s genius.” and then the phone went really quiet and I was like, “Was that not the answer you were expecting?”

Since nature (and cell phones) abhor a vacuum I took the silence as an invitation to not quite lecture, but rather to expound on my enthusiasm for paying kids to eat healthily. 

You see just a few days ago USC published a study demonstrating the import of good habits during times of stress. It found that during times of stress students are more likely to stick to old behaviors including those like exercise and healthy eating. 

Kids don’t love making their beds or brushing their teeth but good parents tie these activities to allowance every day. Why not pay a kid to eat well?

In one experiment researchers followed students over an entire semester including during exams and found that students who were in the habit of eating a healthy breakfast were more likely to stick to routine and ate especially well in the mornings -- even while under pressure.

Armed with this knowledge (and a fist full of common sense) I’ve decided that my children will be raised in a home where I give it my best shot to instill 18 years of healthy habits on them before setting them loose in the world. There’s a lot of exercise around here, there’s healthy food and there’s payment when they do things well.

I pay for grades. When I do good work I get paid. When I do great work I occasionally get a perk or a bonus so I’m not sure that childhood shouldn’t be the same. 

If the kids go to school and bring home a bunch of B’s they get to continue to live their above average lifestyle (few chores, lots of freedom, comic books everywhere). If the kids bring home a slate of A’s then they get their bonus check for Mom LLC. It just makes sense.

Recently a 9-year-old girl took Don Thompson, the CEO of McDonalds, to task for tricking kids into thinking that their food is healthy and he replied by telling a 9-year-old child that McDonalds serves fruits and vegetables. They are even thinking of a kiwi on a stick and something that includes pineapple. These are the food wars parents all over America are waging.

So while my kids are fed sweet teas, sodas and ice cream for every celebration at their school I have the opportunity to temper all this sugar by making water the primary drink in our house and fruits and vegetables the go-to snack.

Obesity is our national eating disorder. In the US 68.8% of adults are overweight or obese and 35.7% are obese. And 31.8% of children and adolescents are overweight or obese and 16.9% are obese. 

I’m a 43-year-old woman. When I look at my elementary school class photos there aren’t any fat kids. There’s a girl we said was fat, but she’s positively lithe and lean compared to today’s kids. 

There’s no time to be delicate about this. America is fat and I’ll be damned if my kids will be weaned on a steady diet of frankenfood and other bad choices.

There are a lot of theories about what makes us fat and it’s unlikely that we’ll find just one cause but it is abundantly clear that healthy eating habits are the vaccine against obesity (and about a zillion other diseases or disorders). 

Kids don’t love making their beds, studying for tests or brushing their teeth but good parents tie these activities to allowance every day. Why not pay a kid to eat well?

Here’s the only thing that’s a little weird. According to an article in London's Daily Mail the supermodel and mom pays her kids a dollar to down a healthy fruit smoothie at breakfast. We all know that the Klum kids have basically won the DNA lotto but I’m worried about their business acumen. A dollar for a fruit smoothie? The only thing I’d get for a dollar around here is an eye roll.

Jessica Gottlieb is a married mother of two and a blogger in Los Angeles. For more visit her blog: Jessica Gottlieb: A Los Angeles Mom.