Parents generally all want the same thing for their kids, to just raise happy, healthy children. However, our societal standards, makes it a challenge to help our children have a healthy relationship with food. When I say a healthy relationship with food, I mean to practice mindfulness when it comes to food. Detaching the emotion from foods and learning how it fuels the body. How it makes you feel good to eat nutrient dense food compared to over filling yourself with processed-greasy food. So how can we help our children have a positive relationship with food and nutrition. Below are five ways to help start this process.
We have to start some where.
Shopping and Cooking
Engage your children in grocery shopping and cooking. If they are old enough, they can search for a recipe, write down the ingredients and help prepare the meal. For younger kids, they can help write down ingredients for shopping and they can help with the meal prep. I am a worrier around the hot stove top or oven for my youngest two kids but they do help chop, pour and mix. While shopping, teach your kids to read labels. Simple items on labels such as….What does organic mean. What item is high in vitamins and minerals. What are vitamins and minerals. Here you can learn more about product labels and nutritional facts. I might add, and I cant say this enough, but eat at the dinner table together. Its important to make dinner or eating a positive experience.
Intuitive Eating and Self awareness
Intuitive eating allows a person to make food choices without experiencing guilt and enjoys the pleasure of eating. It creates self awareness by allowing your child to understand his/her own hunger and fullness cues. It also encourages a mindful relationship with food, by understanding how foods make you feel. Its never a good idea to teach your children to eat everything on their plate because you’re teaching your child to ignore their own internal cues for hunger vs fullness. Instead, we are teaching kids to eat even if they are full and finish eating until your plate is empty. Also, when your kids want to snack all day, ask yourself, is it because they are hungry or perhaps bored. A good way to determine this is too offer a nutritious snack like a banana. My kids do this some evenings at bedtime. They generally don’t want the banana but sometimes, they eat the banana. Honor real hunger cues otherwise, you can trigger a tendency to overeat.
Everything in Moderation
Obsessing over diets or clean eating can do more harm then good if you are not enjoying the foods you eat. It is a much healthier approach to sustain good eating habits by enjoying all foods in moderation. What I mean by moderation is having a healthy rounded whole food diet but also having allowing yourself to have that glass of wine or allowing your child to eat that small bowl of ice cream.
Life is too short, so go ahead and have your cookie too.
Don’t Punish or Reward with Food
Giving sweets and soda as a reward can lead to over eating. These behaviors negate the healthy relationship with food. I too am so guilty of this at times. The, “if you eat all your dinner, we can get some ice cream later”. Saying things like this can associate food as a negative and the ice cream as a positive causing a distorted view on eating for a reward and/or comfort.
Lead by Example
Children look to their parents/guardians as role models. They are ALWAYS watching. Set an example to be a great role model for mindful eating and nutrition and also having a positive mindset about your body image. Show your kids that nutritious foods are enjoyable and that you can enjoy all foods in moderation. What you set on the table each night is the precedence of how they will define nutrition. Also, don’t let your kids see you criticize your body, their body or any other body. If you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, don’t pass that down to your children by calling yourself too fat, too skinny, too anything that shows you dislike your body. All bodies come in different shapes and forms. Teach your children to embrace who they are and that their body is a “healthy body”.
I know all this stuff can be overwhelming especially if you are just starting to change the way you look at food. Am I eating too much or too little? The right foods or the wrong foods? If you take anything away from this, is to just eat healthy foods that are grown from the earth that are colorful but also to just enjoy life and have that damn cookie!
What are some fun recipes you and your family cook together?