In coaching clients around nutrition and exercise for the past 17 years, sorting through my own food/body issues, and becoming a parent, there are a few things I think I've learned along the way. One thing I know for sure, is that all of us have learned something in childhood that we decide to unlearn as adults. In my line of work, many clients come to a consultation with food/eating habits and mindsets that developed when they were children. Much of the time, these same habits and mindsets are the obstacles they face as adults.
Below are some tips I wanted to share to help you and your kids have a healthier relationship with food TOGETHER.
1. Eliminate words like “treat” when talking about dessert. Call dessert by it’s name instead, for example; cookie, cupcake, ice cream, pudding, etc. Make “treats” special experiences instead. When we give foods extra special powers, we are doing our kids a disservice. Food is just food.
2. Do not use food (giving or withdrawing), as a reward or punishment. Many obese adults that I work with today are learning to unwind food related experiences of reward and punishment from childhood. There are many other effective strategies to celebrate or apply discipline.
3. Allow kids to eat according to what their stomachs feel is enough (never being forced to finish their plates). Teach them how to feel the difference between full and stuffed. It can be fun as a family to check in at the start of a meal, in the middle, and towards the end.
4. If your kids don’t want to eat, it’s ok. You can always bring food in a small bag or likely find food within (10) minutes if needed. No one will die from feeling hungry for a few hours. Remember, the average healthy human (with the exception of infants/very small children) can survive 30+ days without food.
5. Include kids in shopping and cooking as much as possible. The more they develop interest and confidence in buying and preparing food, the more likely this skill will continue to grow into adulthood.
6. Eat with your kids as much as it’s possible. Research shows that eating meals together as a family is healthier for kids and families than WHAT is on their plates!
7. We label food as “growing food” and “other food” at our house. There’s no right/wrong, good/bad, yes/no, junk/treats. Our daughter knows however, that if she wants to be strong, intelligent and energized, she needs more growing food. 🙂
8. Allow kids freedom and autonomy around food as much as possible. We've had a drawer full of age appropriate foods for our daughter since she could walk/talk. She has never stuffed her face till she was sick, and knows that if she had cookies today, she can choose to have chocolate tomorrow. (NOTE: If you feel your child is addicted to sugar and can never self regulate, you may feel it’s best not to have it in the house at all. Talk to a nutrition professional if needed.).
Feel free to contact me personally for individual support or to speak at your workplace.