When it comes to her kids’ food, Kristen Bell believes honesty is the best policy.
The “Good Place” star shared how she gets her two daughters, 6-year-old Lincoln and 4-year-old Delta, to eat healthy food.
“Context is the best way to make honesty not scary,” Bell said while promoting Lightlife’s plant-based burger. “Our preschool reiterates all the time at lunch, ‘You always eat your growing food before you eat your crunchies.’ So they talk about what their growing foods are and why you eat them ― and then your pretzels are crunchy and come last.”
Bell said she’s adapted this approach at home.
“When I tell my kids what they have to eat, it’s not just my rule, and that’s all they’ll hear about it,” she explained. “I tell them, ‘When you eat broccoli, your brain grows bigger. Your body grows bigger. You can jump higher. You can feel better in school. You can watch more movies with me and understand them.’ I let them know the effects of what eating good food means. And they’re pretty willing to get through it.”
When it comes to Halloween candy, however, she engages in a bit of trickery.
“This is one place where we are a bit dishonest in our parenting, but if they ever asked, I promise I would tell them the truth,” said Bell. “When they’re trick-or-treating, we let them eat a couple of pieces of candy, and then when we come home, they put their pillowcases on the washing machine where they aren’t readily available.”
The following morning, Bell goes through all the candy and removes half of it. But she has a strategy.
“It’s mainly because I don’t want some things in there. Candies that I feel are very bad for them, I’ll switch them with better candies ― like ones with sugar as opposed to high-fructose corn syrup,” she explained, noting that she lets the girls eat one or two pieces of candy a day for the next couple of weeks.
Bell emphasized that if her daughters ever asked about their candy, she would be honest.
“I make little changes, and they never know the difference. So I’m fine being dishonest about that. But if they asked, I’d say, ‘I care about your body and these are better for you.’”
Though Bell strives to eat a healthy diet, she said she and her husband, Dax Shepard, do like to treat themselves to some of the candy removed from their daughters’ trick-or-treating haul.
“After they go to bed, we eat a few pieces for sure. Hell yeah,” she said.
Other ways the actors try to encourage their children to eat healthy food is by preparing fun and inventive meals. “I always talk about how colorful food should be, that you should have a rainbow on the plate,” Bell said. “And making them delicious of course. Don’t get me wrong. Every once in a while I’ll grind some spinach into a smoothie. But there’s usually no trickery going on. We can say, ‘That tastes delicious, and it’s also good for you!’”
When the girls are less on board, Bell said they try another method they learned from their preschool: asking, “How many minutes?”
“If a child wants a toy or swing, they can ask the other child, ‘How many minutes for the swing?’ So one child knows there’s a foreseeable end, and one child knows there’s a foreseeable future,” she said. “So at dinner we can ask, ‘How many minutes until you finish your broccoli?’ And they know they can’t get out of it but can say, ‘I need five minutes,’ and then at the end of the five minutes, they do it.’”
Shepard told HuffPost they sometimes engage in a reward system ― offering one french fry for every vegetable. “It’s just a bartering method,” he said. “Though I think the smarter option would be what my mom did, which is cook one thing, and if they don’t want to eat it, they go to bed hungry.”