The days are long, but the years are short. I don’t have kids of my own yet, but I’ve often heard my parent friends say this. There are many things parents want to teach their children before they grow up and move out. For many people, healthy habits are one of those things. While parents focus a lot on sports and other extracurricular activities, teaching healthy nutrition habits can fall to the wayside. Restricted eating, disorder eating, or a lack of healthy eating habits breeds young adults with a poor understanding on how to best feed and fuel themselves.
As a dietitian, it’s my job to help people form a healthy relationship with food. Often times, years of dieting and restriction or taking advice from well-meaning friends and family lead to food fears, feelings of frustration and despair, and an overall poor relationship with food. Instead of instilling these negative food connotations and then having to undo past experiences, wouldn’t it be better to start when kids are young? You can plant seeds for a good foundation by providing age-appropriate education, opportunities for kids to learn and explore food, and to establish their own personal nutrition game-plan.
There are two easy ways to help get your kids started on the right nutrition path. The first one is to have meals together as a family. You’ve likely heard all the statistics. Kids who eat family meals are at lower risk for being overweight, tend to have good family relationships, less disordered eating and better academic scores. If you’re able to sit down at least once a week for a family member, you can use that opportunity to start instilling healthy habits. Listen to how you speak about the foods you’re eating (do you call foods good or bad?). How you react to foods, your child will do the same. Be a positive example by eating a variety of healthy foods. Lastly, encourage your child to listen to his or her own satiety cues. Don’t force your child to finish his or her plate. Encourage them to try new foods, but realize it may take multiple exposures before they are willing.
Family meals might not be realistic for everyone. For those who are unable to have regular family meals, you can spend time with your kids in the kitchen. Teach them to cook, and build their confidence in the kitchen early. Kids as a young as two can help out with age-appropriate tasks like pouring or mixing, mashing potatoes and “painting” oil on vegetables. Give them time to learn and make mistakes. Kids who help prepare their own meals and snacks build a sense of ownership over those foods, and are more likely to eat them come mealtime. Need help providing age-appropriate tasks? Check out this site.
It’s back to school time and the perfect time to get your kids involved in their own nutrition game-plan. Pick an age-appropriate task and have them help with breakfast or with their after-school snack. Are you interested in setting up a nutrition game-plan for you and your family? Schedule a nutrition consult today. Members receive one (1) complimentary session. Following that session, we offer many different packages to help you stay connected, supported and accountable.