July 29, 2016 02:30 PM

The road to Rio has likely had enough stressors for gymnast Jordyn Wieber without having to put a lot of thought into what she was eating.

Luckily, her mom Rita started her daughter on the path toward independent healthy eating habits as early as 6 years old.

“I wanted to start her out on thinking about healthy snacks, so we’d put a chart on the refrigerator [listing foods as] low, medium and high,” she shares in the latest episode of PEOPLE’s Mom Talk. “So [with] the ‘highs,’ she could only have one out of the list — and that would be kind of the more junky stuff.

“I’ve always heard you’re not supposed to completely say [foods are] a ‘never have,’ because that just makes kids want things,” she continues.

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“The ‘mediums’ were things like pretzels — they weren’t necessarily bad for you, but they didn’t have a huge nutritional component,” Rita says. “And then from the [‘low’] group, they could have as much as they wanted — you know, the fruits and the vegetables and those kinds of snacks.

“That helped [Jordyn] have to come up with her own limitations and know she can have a little bit of some things and a lot of the good stuff,” she adds.

Of Jordyn, who’s now 21 years old, her mother shares that these efforts paid off, considering her daughter now successfully makes her own healthy-eating rules. And while Rita’s techniques were effective, they haven’t come without hurdles for her children.

“It worked, [but] it’s tough because some of my kids, like my son, wanted everything from the ‘high’ [list],” she says, laughing. “And me too!

“Just trying to help them make their own choices I think was important,” Rita continues on a more serious note. “[It would’ve been so] easy to just say, ‘This is what you’re getting’ [instead of] trying to instill some decision-making in them.”

Jen Juneau

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