A super challenging thing as a parent is finding the line between discussing healthy eating with a child, and instilling unhealthy relationships with food. What we say or do about food can have a big impact on a child’s relationship with food, their body image, and their mental health as they grow up. Here are a few tips for talking to your kids about healthy eating!
Tip 1: Love Yourself First: It’s no question that kids absorb conversations happening around them. If their parent is constantly talking about how “fat” they look, how certain foods are bad (but they many indulge in them always), or if a parent calls their partner a pig for finishing their plate, the kid will likely start thinking about those things, too. If healthy food and exercise is deemed as punishment, chances are your kid will have a similar point of view.
BUT, if the parents are accepting and loving of their own health journey, those positive characteristics will also be picked up by the young ones. How do we flip the script?
“Ugh, I guess I HAVE to workout now” → “Mom is going to workout now because it makes her feel strong”
“Broccoli for dinner because we ate pizza last night” → “Green foods help us build strong bones!”
“I am looking so fat in these jeans” → “I really have beautiful skin/hair/eyes/anything else you can compliment yourself on!”
Tip 2: Change up dinner conversation: Remember when you were a kid and you couldn’t leave the dinner table until you finished all your peas? Bet you don’t love peas that much anymore do you? And if you do eat them, I’m sure that you have flashbacks to that moment. It’s time to switch up meal time with your family. No more bribing your kids to finish “one more bite” by offering dessert. If they don’t want any more, that’s their choice. It’s your responsibility to provide the food and that’s it.
The same goes for other fruits, veggies or proteins. Forcing your kids to finish a piece of barbecued chicken isn’t the answer to them enjoying it. Understand that kids need to have a lot of exposure to a certain type of food before they can really tell if they enjoy it or not. Consider changing up a sauce, changing the way you cook it, making it fun and see if that makes a difference.
Tip 3: Good Food Vs Bad Food: In the 80s/90s, fats of any kind were BAD. Then, eggs were BAD. Then suddenly fats were GOOD, but now carbs were BAD. Grains, oils, fruits, and (insert food here) have all been villainized at some point! The label of good and bad foods is often battled on social media these days, so when it comes to food education, it’s best to talk about food BENEFITS - without completely making another food group the enemy. Growing up with good/bad associated with food can lead to unhealthy food relationships later in life.
Check out this Eat The Rainbow post on educating kids about food colours and what they help us with. Green foods help our bones grow strong, red foods help our heart, etc. When it comes to sugar, we know that less is better for developing bodies - but instead of saying it’s BAD, say “too much ice cream can give you a belly ache”
Bonus Tip: Talking to your kids about going to Simply For Life: We want to avoid the word “diet” with our clients, as diets are always temporary - so avoid this word at home, too! “Dad’s getting help to improve my eating habits, learn some new recipes, get meal ideas for our family, have more energy, etc.” Talk to your consultant about meals your family loves or what will make things easier for you when planning meals. Don’t make a “special” meal for yourself or bring meals to events or occasions. If you are having something different than everyone else, just say it’s because this is what you feel like having right now. Instead of, “I am eating this because I’m trying to lose weight” or “I’m eating this because I’m on a diet”. Remember, we are trying to create healthy habits that last for life. You’re not on a diet and if you feel like you are, please talk to your consultant so they can help you!