I might be a relic, but when I grew up, I didn’t get a choice of what to eat for dinner. My mother made the meals for our family, and whether we liked it or not, we would eat what was put in front of us. Nowadays, it seems like real food doesn’t exist anymore, and everything comes from a box and can be tossed into a microwave. What most don’t realize is that the food we’re feeding our families isn’t real food, and could quite possibly be the culprit to the food allergy epidemic running rampant in our country today.

It seems like parents these days are overworked, have too many responsibilities, and so little time on their hands that the best they can do for their kids at dinnertime is to throw a plate of breaded chicken nuggets in the microwave. Sadly, this hardly qualifies as a nutritious dinner. While the advertisements shown on television claim that their products are healthy, things like processed chicken nuggets pressed and formed into “fun animal and dinosaur shapes” contain more chemicals than our bodies know what to do with. What could be worse for a growing child’s body? Not only that, but dinnertime used to be the time when the family would be together as a unit, have conversations, and reconnect.

From the time our little ones can chew solid food, they should be encouraged to eat real food. Make a small portion for them that’s suitable for their tender taste buds. If they fuss and fight and whine and stomp their feet, have them take what’s known as a “no thank you” portion. Give them incentive to take a bite of the seemingly horrific item, and then let them have a piece of something they like. Getting kids to eat their veggies is usually a chore, so try adding a little cheese or other flavors to make them more appealing.

It’s time to turn off the television and not be distracted by the glow of a box doling out false promises. Remember, real food doesn’t need to be advertised. If it contains more than five ingredients, and you can’t identify them, put the box back in your grocer’s freezer and start shopping the perimeter aisles. That’s where they keep the real food.