Food is, quite literally, one of the most important and essential parts of being alive. The food habits that we currently have are what we picked up when we were young, which is why talking to your child about healthy eating is absolutely essential.
While most people pick up relatively healthy food habits, there are times when unrestricted access to all kinds of food, or restricted access to only a certain kind of food can lead to a child picking up unhealthy, and sometimes dangerous food habits.
Talking to kids about food is a tough job, however, since you don’t want to constantly lecture them about what they’re eating and how they should eat it, but on the other hand, since kids don’t know what’s good for them and what’s not, letting them do as they please can be very dangerous for their health.
In this article, we’re going to be talking about ways to talk to your child about food and how to instil good food habits within them which they will keep for life.
Rules For The Parents
Before talking to your kids about the food they’re eating, it is essential that you, as a parent, set some ground rules for yourself and your family with respect to food. Here are a few of those rules,
- Availability of Healthy Foods – To make sure your kids are eating healthy it is important that the kind of food you want them to eat is always readily available.
Making a concerted effort to buy healthier foods and to eat at home as much as possible is the first step in ensuring that your children eat healthier.
- Lead By Example – If you ask your child to eat a spinach salad while they see you consuming take out food regularly, they’re not going to listen to you.
Children look to adults for social cues and learn everything from their parents and guardians.
If you want your child to eat right, you must do it too, and this works in favour of both of you since you will also feel better and healthier after consuming better food on a regular basis.
- Avoid Labelling – Teach your kids that food is either nutritious or not nutritious and that they’re allowed to eat both kinds in moderation.
Labelling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ can cause them to feel bad about eating a certain kind of food, which is not something you want to instil in your child at such a young age.
Instead, explaining to them the bodily consequences of eating too much non-nutritious food is the right way to go about it.
- Eating Together – Studies show that families who eat together tend to eat healthier, more nutritious food, as opposed to families who eat their meals separately, in their own time and space. Eating should be made fun and so should eating healthy.
Feeding your kids bland, boiled vegetables is a sure-fire way to make them hate eating those foods. Instead, try out new recipes that incorporate the kind of foods you want them to eat and have them help you cook.
This way, you’ll be eating healthier while also spending more time with your family.
- Body Positivity – Teaching your kids from a young age that they must look a certain way to be deemed attractive, or that being fat is bad, is a very bad thing for a young child with a developing mind.
At their age, kids’ brains are like sponges and they take in information very quickly and also personalise it very quickly, which is why it is so important to always be body positive around them.
Teaching kids to celebrate their own bodies and helping them understand that people come in different shapes and sizes and that all these differences are valid and good is essential.
You must also learn to not criticise your own body in front of your children as they will pick up on this and likely apply it on themselves and no child should feel bad about their body, nor should any adult.
Rules For Kids
Now that we’ve established what adults should do, here are a few things you should teach your kids to do in order to cultivate better eating habits.
- Portion Sizes – A good way to help your kids understand portion sizes and how much of a certain kind of food should be eaten is to follow this simple rule. Carbs the size of their fist, protein the size of their palm, and fats the size of the tip of their thumb.
This will lead them to eat the right amount of each kind of food and also help them finish the food they’ve put on their plate. Making them understand why portion sizes are to be followed is also important.
- Sugars – It’s no secret that kids love sugar. But it is also no secret that sugar is very, very bad for them. Not only is sugar highly addictive, but it also leads to dropping energy levels, irritability, and high levels of blood sugar which can lead to early-onset diabetes.
Sucrose should be limited and only be given as a treat, and to satisfy their sweet tooth, fruits should always be kept available so that they do not try to find other fixes for their sugar cravings.
- Living Healthy – Emphasising having a healthy, strong body, instead of a thin or muscular body is very important. Teaching your kids what a healthy lifestyle is and what good nutrition looks like will set them up for a life of good health.
You can also play with them and teach them why exercise is good for their body (remember to never focus on aesthetics and only on the aspect of having a healthy body!).
- Connect The Dots – Kids do not recognise the fact that the food they eat directly affects their health and well being and also their mood and how they feel currently.
Teaching this to them will help them make more conscious decisions about the food they eat and which foods they should avoid.