Positive Changes: 4 Ways To Teach Your Kids Healthy Attitudes To Food
How not to pass your food or dieting hang-ups to your children.
Children 09th Feb, 2021
It is time to leave guilt, blame, shame and judgement behind and to explore some positive changes. Many people are unhappy with their bodies and it is all too easy to pass this onto children without even realising you are doing so. Magazines, movies and television are full of airbrushed images of people, wearing perfect make up, under perfect lighting. These celebrities are often also very slim, or impossibly muscled, with personal chefs, trainers and strict eating regimes to keep them at the size expected by the media industry.
It is very difficult to resist this idealised version of a perfect body and love our lumps, bumps and curves. A good place to start is educating yourself, when you explore new ways of passing on healthy eating attitudes to your kids, you are making a positive change. Remember, you are perfect just the way you are, is the most important lesson to learn yourself and teach your kids.
Focus On Health Not On ‘Being Good’:
Try not to label foods as ‘bad’ or ‘good’, being bad can appeal to children more than being good, leading them to gravitate to the meals and snacks that are less healthy. Focus instead on how nutritious food fuels your mind and body. “This porridge/pancakes will fill you full of energy for your morning class”.
For ideas on simple, nutritious breakfasts for kids look at this webpage https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/healthy-breakfasts-kids-recipes.
In addition, if you can teach your children to care about being healthy and provide nutritious foods they enjoy for snacks and meals, they will take that with them into adulthood.
If they notice you choosing an apple over the biscuits, use the opportunity to explain you need 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day and you haven’t had all of yours yet. Don’t say it is because the biscuit will make you fat, or put on weight. If you are on a diet, for whatever reason, talk about eating healthily, particularly if your meals, or portions are different to normal. Try not to mention weight loss, or make a link in their minds that losing weight is good. In a similar way link exercise to fun, rather than something to be done because it controls weight or shape.
Try New Foods:
If you like a small variety of different foods, it can be difficult to balance your diet, or get your kids to eat healthily. Children quickly realise that doing what you say, rather than what you do, is not fair, where possible, lead by example. It is good to stretch yourself and try new vegetables, fruits, meats, cheeses and cuisines. You may find you love mediterranean, mexican, or thai food if you try making a simple recipe.
This website is a great place to start https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/.
If you have a particular food, or group of foods you really struggle with and experience stomach pain, bloating, or diarrhoea, think about whether you may be intolerant or allergic to something.
The following webpage will give you a place to start investigating this possibility https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/food-intolerance/.
Learn The Difference Between Hunger And Comfort Eating:
When you, or your children are hungry between meal times think about whether you just want a snack or if you are stressed, upset, or angry about something. If you are feeling emotional it is possible you are eating for comfort, not hunger. Children can easily pick up and imitate this habit, where possible, ask your kids why they are hungry, give them a hug, see if they are upset about something. You may be reading this thinking I can’t do that every time my child asks for a snack! Do not try, use your judgement and take the opportunities that come up.
When kids eat is also important, as you know, children will crash and binge if they get over-hungry. Encourage regular snacks, as well as healthy meals. Be aware that kids need a higher percentage of fat than adults and a different balance of nutrients, so their diet should be slightly different to your own.
There are lots of simple, healthy meal plans for kids online, this website is a good place to start https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/recipes.
Focus On What Your Body Can Do:
As you know, the media and television mainly use a slim, muscular body type that is impossible to achieve without a personal trainer and nutritionist. To counteract the images your children see daily, talk about what bodies can do instead “look at how strong that dog walkers legs are” “see how fast that swimmer is going”. Educate your kids about airbrushing, make up and what a difference perfect lighting makes (making lines, freckles, rashes etc disappear).
When they understand how bodies are misrepresented, children often get riled up, which can be a great way of boosting pride in their natural appearance. Being media literate will also help them in the years ahead as they become more aware of their appearance and what other people think. You can also focus on achievements over appearance, “I’m so proud of how hard you try, it’s the effort that counts”.
Ultimately, you know what is best for your children, trust your judgement and instincts. If you want to give your kids a treat, do so, the important thing is to keep the main focus on nutritious meals and snacks. Then both you and your children can develop healthy attitudes to food and hopefully, come to love your perfect, wobbly, freckled, dimpled bodies.