13 Mistakes to Avoid When Teaching Kids to Be Healthy Eaters
Turning 30 made me think about how we want to one day raise our future children.
One of the big things for me is doing everything in our power to prevent them from acquiring disordered eating.
I know much of this will depend on my behaviour.
Since I have struggled with disordered eating in the past, it’s important for me to have my shit together so our kids don’t follow in my footsteps.
Because I know they will listen more to what I do than what I say.
And as parents, kids depend on you to shop for, plan and prep healthy food.
So, not only are you providing them with the food they will eat, you are also providing them with a “model” of what normal eating behaviour is.
So, even though your eating tendencies may be dysfunctional, your kids will just see that as normal and follow in your foot-steps.
So, first of all, let’s make sure we’re eating the right way.
Here is what Precision Nutrition has to say about normal eaters:
1-Normal eaters are in tune with their physiological needs and internal cues
They stay connected with these feelings before, during and after eating.
They know what their body wants and needs.
2-They are not perfect, nor do they strive to be
Normal eaters will eat cake,
They will drink cokes,
And they will eat fast every once and while.
It’s part of life.
They choose to look at things on a continuum.
As in, what is the better choice I can make given what is available?
Stressing too much about being perfect is just that, a source of stress.
Chill your grill, guuurl.
3-They don’t think of food as good or bad.
Food is what it is.
Normal eaters enjoy food,
But they also know that food can contribute to health, fitness and performance.
They balance the two without allowing it to consume their thoughts.
4-They don’t over-think food
They think only as much as necessary about food.
No more, no less.
5-They don’t under-think food
They stay aware of how and what they eat,
And again, they know that food can contribute to health, fitness and performance.
6-They enjoy food but don’t seek emotional comfort from it
Normal eaters understand that foods can be pleasurable but they don’t expect it to change their emotional state.
7-They eat when they’re hungry
Normal eaters have good appetite awareness.
8-They stop eating when they are satisfied, not stuffed
They don’t overstuff themselves,
but they aren’t hungry all the time either.
They know their limits and they respect them.
9-They may or may not eat when they have a craving
Sometimes they let the craving pass.
Other times, they may take a small amount and go for it.
If they make the choice to go for it, they don’t let the craving choose for them.
They make the choice based on their values, identity and priorities.
10-They eat with awareness of feelings and sensations around food.
They not only notice how they feel before, during and after eating,
but they also notice flavours, textures and smells of food.
**Note: Normal eaters come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There is no one typical person who is a normal eater.
Would someone think about the children??
Kids are intuitive eaters, their bodies will naturally regulate their intake over time.
Unfortunately, their intuition around eating gets messed up with things like:
Inappropriate portion sizes and servings,
Parents having and enforcing strict rules around eating,
And eating while distracted, rushed or on-the-go.
Nonetheless, how and what kids eat early in life determines brain development, metabolism and overall health.
Here are 13 mistakes to avoid when teaching kids to be healthy eaters.
“How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?”
Telling kids that they need to eat their broccoli before they can have dessert sets them up to view the dessert as a reward.
A reward they will seek out in other areas in their life.
2-Giving kids food when they’re upset
“Oh, Billy, I can see you’re sad. Here’s some candy”
This is partially why adults will seek out treats after a break-up,
a shitty day at work,
or some sort of emotionally difficult situation.
Don’t do it!
Note: This one was a dagger for me since Jack Pearson took Kate to get ice cream when she was upset…
At the cabin?
3-Making kids clean off their plates
Under the right circumstances, kids naturally know when they are hungry and when they are full.
Let nature run it’s course.
Don’t muck it up with stupid rules that you are carrying down from your parents and grandparents.
Free your mind from the rules that have been passed down to you.
Think about what’s best for your kid.
4-Having strict rules about “good” or “bad” foods.
This can set kids up for “all-or-none” thinking”.
Which basically means you’re either on or you’re off.
Have you ever seen this in an adult:
“Well, I mucked up my diet today. I might as well just eat a whole tub of ice cream now”?
Kids need to understand that eating lies on a continuum.
Foods aren’t inherently good or bad.
There are just better choices based on the situation.
5-Not serving a variety of minimally processed whole foods
Again, highly processed foods that have been altered to cause you to continue eating them beyond satisfaction messes up a kid’s natural ability to detect fullness.
Include more whole foods like broccoli, sweet potato, beans, lentils, meat and fish.
6-Not serving appropriate portion-sizes
Eliminate the option of over-eating.
Serve an appropriate portion size for the kid and if they would like to have more, just quietly let that happen.
You don’t have to make a dumb-ass comment about it.
Again, kids know how much to eat under the right circumstances.
Let it happen.
7-Not giving kids the illusion of choice and self-determination
When kids are given choices and they make the decision to eat a particular food, they take ownership in that decision.
And everyone, kids and adults included, are more likely to do something when they make the decision to do it.
Not when others are outright telling them what to do.
8-Not letting kids stop when they’re no longer hungry
Don’t shove food in their faces.
Just let their intuitive eating run it’s course.
Keep minimally-processed whole foods available and just let your kids decide.
9-Making comments about your kid’s weight
You are the most important role model in your kid’s life.
They look up to you,
And they rely on you in many ways.
Crushing them with a comment about their weight and/or body shape is completely unnecessary.
10-Keeping unhealthy choices in the house
Again, the ability detect fullness is disrupted with excessively processed foods that are engineered to make you keep eating.
Kids having the ability to detect hunger and fullness is so magical.
Just get out of the way.
Don’t make it a big deal that you aren’t keeping these unhealthy choices in the house (that would be labelling foods and good or bad as in #4 above),
just quietly keep them unavailable.
11-Not involving your kids in shopping, menu planning and cooking
Meal preparation is a wonderful opportunity to teach your kids skills that they can use for life,
It is an opportunity for them to make choices for their health that they will take ownership in,
And it is an opportunity to spend quality, uninterrupted, non-screen time with your kids.
Take it 🙂
12-Eating and living fast
Life is fast, I get it,
But allowing this to bleed into meal time causes kids to acquire the habit of eating fast.
And, as you know, eating fast allows you to cram in more food before you feel full.
Slow things down around meal time.
Make it family time.
Take a bite,
Then ask a kid a question.
Take a bite,
then put down your fork and listen to the conversation.
Create an environment of eating slow around meal times.
13-Focusing on how your and their bodies look
You need to keep your comments about yourself in check.
Your kids will pick up on those comments and internalize what you say as important.
As in, the way the body looks is more important than how it functions.
Choose to focus on how the body works,
about being strong,
and having the ability to complete different feats.
“Wow, Suzie, your body is so strong from the exercise you have been doing”,
“Wow, Billy, your body has endless energy. It must be from those healthy food choices you are making”.
You are your kid’s world.
You are the ideal person in their eyes.
You are the person they see the most as they grow and develop.
You are the one who provides them with the unconditional love that never wavers in intensity.
You are their first role model.
As a result, your kids will pick up on the things you do and say more so than anyone else.
Make sure you are living, speaking and acting in a way that is conducive to your kid’s growing up to be healthy and happy.