5 Healthy Eating TipsJan 26, 2023
AWWWW!! Sometimes it feels like feeding children is like solving a rubik's cube...looks simple until you actually try it. I remember the days when my children ate only chicken nuggets. AND. Imagine the shame spiral I went into when I saw the nurse from my pediatrician's office at the Santa Cruz Pier who said something like "I love Tuesdays because everything is 50 cents but who would feed their child a 50 cent hot dog...I mean, is it even meat?" (insert reel of me grabbing the 50 cent hot dog out of my daughter's hand and shoving it into my pocket). Through the years, I've fielded a lot of questions about nutrition and I've answered 5 of the most common below...
- How can kids get involved in meal planning or preparation? Children of any age can be involved in meal planning and prep. In fact, this is the one way I can guarantee that children will eat what you serve. It begins with talking about food and why you buy what you buy. Start by just talking about healthy eating and making a shopping list. Ask them what they want to eat for the coming week. Talk about what you’ll need to buy and what you have. Make room on the list for FUN items, too. Enlist your children’s help while in the grocery store.
- How can overly restrictive diets or shaming kids and teens for eating "too much harm" them? Emotional eating and eating for any reason other than to fuel your body can start with habits and attitudes developed in childhood. I’m not an advocate for restrictive dieting or shaming. These are just service-level fixes to deeper issues. Having conversations about nutrition rather than diets is the best way to go. When you take the focus off of diet, you take the shame out of the equation. In addition, conversations about reasons for eating are important. Be real about the fact there is a thing called emotional eating. Talk about your experiences and talk about how you addressed them OR if you’re working through this yourself, be transparent. I had the opportunity to model this for my own children in 2004. At the time, Sofia was 9 and Ben was 6. I had decided to lose weight because I no longer felt healthy. I wasn’t able to play actively with them. I joined a program and talked all about the reasons I was changing what and how I ate (portion controlling, including treats within reason, including more fruits and vegetables). I modeled for them the new self-talk I was employing - asking myself if I was physically hungry and identifying what that meant. They started following along and helping me. It was a great bonding moment. I’m happy to say that neither one of them have taken on the unhealthy attitudes and habits that I developed as a child. That’s the real story here.
- Can regular mealtimes with the family benefit kids and teens? If so, why? Absolutely, number one you are sharing part of your day with your child which helps you to emphasize the importance of family time. You are developing and maintaining your family culture and you're developing an attitude that food is something to be shared and celebrated.
- What should you do if you notice your kid seems to want to eat when bored or - see above answer to 2…Make sure you are focused on nutrition, attitude and habit and model how you do that for yourself. You’ll be healthier and so will they.
- Do kids have different appetites at differentages or stages of life? Absolutely! Make sure you know when kids are due for a growth spurt or are in one. It’s especially important to focus on high quality proteins and complex carbohydrates to make sure you are fueling rapid growth during spurts.
Feeding your children is all about healthy eating and knowing that a balanced diet does not mean a perfectly balanced meal 100% of the time. As always, perfectionism and comparing yourself to the mythical perfect parent is your enemy. So, sometimes, your child is gonna eat a 50 cent hot dog and that's okay.
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