How we speak to our kids about food matters.
I will be the first to admit that my kids do not eat a perfect diet. I try to teach them to eat healthy foods but forcing them to finish their veggies in my opinion won’t necessarily teach them to make healthy choices for themselves. I tend to lean more towards exposing my children to different types of foods, encouraging them to try at least a lick or a bite and then make their decisions for themselves (within reason). I know this can be an unpopular point of view. I guess I didn’t grow up being forced to eat anything. It didn’t exactly lead to a healthy diet on its own, but it did lead to a healthy relationship with food. I enjoy my food and have found ways to enjoy healthy food as I have grown. I don’t just tolerate my veggies, I savor them because I have learned to make them taste great.
Here is what I think is more important than forcing a kid to eat their veggies – Ask them how they feel after they eat. If they indulged in sugary treats at a birthday party and felt sick afterwards, help them connect the dots. Point out that eating lots of sugar can make you feel this way. When they feel good after a balanced meal, point out that they ate a healthy meal and their bodies are thanking them for it! Teach them to eat a balanced plate (if you don’t know what this looks like, I can help! Contact me!). Explain that we need protein, fat, carbs, veggies… Ask them if there is a way to make the veggies or healthy food more appealing or tasty to them. I often offer ketchup or ranch dressing with the meal and if they don’t like something, we can try it with a sauce that they like. Here’s the thing, I would rather my daughter eat a plate full of carrots and cucumbers with a little ranch than to fight her on eating them alone. This way she enjoys her meal and she develops a healthy relationship with food and eating.
And if you have a day where you all didn’t eat great, let it go. I give you permission (not that you need it) to let yourself off the hook. I get it, I am in the trenches with you, sweet momma. Just let it go. The next day, just start fresh without judging yourself or beating yourself up. Every new day is a new chance to try again. Change is hard, kids are hard, just keep doing the hard things!
“But they just don’t like that food.” I have said this. Here is the reality, we get all new taste buds every 10-14 days. What does this mean for the foods we eat? You may hate something one day and love it a few weeks later. You have completely new taste buds!! And your kids do too. So don’t label them picky eaters, don’t say oh you won’t like that. My kids have amazed me with things that I thought they hated but suddenly they love. Be open minded with your kids, expose them to new foods as often as you can!
Appearance and food
“a new study from Common Sense Media made headlines by reporting that 80% of 10-year-old girls have been on a diet. Furthermore, this “horrifying new research” found that more than half of girls and one-third of boys ages six to eight want thinner bodies. Indeed, these statistics are horrifying, but they are far from new.” – 2015 article https://www.refinery29.com/2015/01/81288/children-dieting-body-image
My 8-year-old is starting to notice that she has a little belly. She pointed this out to me the other day. I explained that she is a growing girl and her body is going to change a lot over the coming years. That extra little fluff may be in preparation for a growth spurt and it will most likely balance out soon. I told her she was beautiful and that she was at a healthy weight for her age. I pointed out that she is strong and active, and her body does so many amazing things for her. I told her to keep putting good foods in her body and it will keep working well for her.
Finally, and most importantly…
Please don’t tell small children they need to lose weight. Even if they do. Talk to them about how food makes them feel. Teach them to eat more of the good stuff and less of the silly stuff because it will make them feel good, give them energy, help them learn better… not so they can strive toward the unattainable goals the media puts on people.
And tell them they are beautiful/handsome, they are smart, they are kind, caring… because kids can’t hear this enough.