Teaching your kids to eat well without food guilt and disordered eating
Avoiding kid’s food guilt and disordered eating can be challenging when we often hear judgmental messaging from our peers. There are so many opinions out there about food and what we should be actually feeding our kids. Then we have to figure out a way to feed them without damaging their relationship with food. Let’s dig into that topic now!
“Your kid is so tall and strong. You must only feed them organic foods.”
“My kids never eat sodas or chips.”
“I can’t figure out how much is too much.”
Let’s talk kid food
Teaching your kids to eat well without food guilt and disordered eating doesn’t have to be super challenging. Being a mom to two active youth athletes, we eat a wide variety of foods. As a health coach, there is a level of knowledge and expectation that I serve my family *mostly* healthy food. Here is my strategy for “kid food”.
80% of our children’s food is nutrient dense with 20% of their nutritional intake still mirroring the Standard American Diet.
Breakfast is a quick grab and often includes yogurt, whole wheat toast with butter. On the weekends it’s a family-style eggs and bacon breakfast. At lunch and dinner, the boys have a plate full of vegetables for carbohydrates and micronutrients, animal protein, and a healthy fat for brain function and metabolic efficiency. I try to keep that food mostly fresh, not frozen, avoiding canned food to get micro and macronutrients into their bodies.
When the boys tell us they are “full”, we trust them-mostly. If they munched on carrots and ranch for a snack two hours earlier, they may still be full and that is okay. Forcing children to finish food is not necessary and can cause obesity into adulthood. However, if our kiddos are skipping nutrient-dense meals only to eat cookies or ice cream for dessert, that is not acceptable. We remind and teach our boys of the value and purpose of the healthy foods in our body and contrast the sugary treats.
“Parental pressure to eat can be detrimental to children because it takes away from a child’s ability to respond naturally to their own hunger,” said researcher, Katie Loth. “Instead, (it) encourages them to respond to cues in their environment which can lead to unhealthy weight gain over time”, researchers found in a study found at NCBI.com.
Explaining macronutrients to children
Here are some simple ways to explain protein, carbs, and fat to your kids.
- Protein helps to repair and build muscles and other tissues in the body while helping to burn stored body fat.
- Carbohydrates from vegetables help to flush your gut with vitamins and minerals. It is also your body’s energy source and provides fiber for healthy bathroom goals.
- Fat is our brain power and helps us to focus while helping our metaboiic system to burn stored body fat as fuel! They are also organ protectors.
Avoiding kid’s food guilt and disordered eating
With the intention of creating a healthy view on nutrition, our kids eat processed and packaged foods. Our two boys eat well 80% of the time while still enjoying some processed foods. Teaching your kids to eat well without food guilt and disordered eating can be done by avoid using food for both reward or punishment. Instead of ice cream for good grades, try a fun hike or family bike ride. When children associate food with reward, they carry that habit with them into adulthood. At 40 years old, we no longer need to reward ourselves with sugary food or drink but that habit was formed at youth, so it’s hard to break. This habit leads to obesity in adulthood.
Adding new veggies
When kids don’t finish their vegetables on the plate, avoid punishment. When trying new vegetables, explain the value of that food in the body and let your child know that it takes time to get used to new foods. Give them space and grace and make the process fun. Studies show that it can take a child 5-10 exposures to a new food before they like the food.
Rewarding with food
When we teach kids that sweet treats are a reward for a job well done, we carry that behavior into adulthood. Alcohol, sugar, and other indulgent foods are normal ways to celebrate a good day. Adversely, foods can be used to soothe a stressful time. Rather than rewarding with food, what if your child gets to choose a fun hiking trail for a family hike. Choosing the boardgame for Friday night game night is also great. That way, your family gets outdoors in the sunshine, exercising or participating in an activity that improves memory and brain function.
Food is not the enemy- or the best friend. It is the source of energy and nutrients to help us live long and vital lives. By removing pressure and reward around food at a young age, children can grow up understanding that purposeful eating is important for the mind, body, and soul.
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