Do you know that our basic eating habits are established during childhood? Have you ever watched a young child eat a meal? Did you notice that he will often leave part of a sandwich uneaten or abandon the milk in his glass? Each of us is born with a natural appetite and our body wisdom will signal when we’ve had enough to eat. So, when a child reaches fullness, he will naturally stop eating. Here are five tips for helping children establish lifelong eating habits:
SERVE CHILD-SIZE PORTIONS. Are you serving adult-size portions to your youngster? Remember, a child naturally listens to his intuitive sense to stop eating when he is full. By demanding that the child cannot leave the table until his plate is clean ruins the child’s natural tendency to stop eating when he is satisfied. Instead, serve small portions to your child and encourage him to ask for seconds if he would like more. Honor your child’s natural fullness meter instead of your own agenda to police the plate.
BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL. Children learn by listening and observing adults. So be aware of your own eating habits and be enthusiastic about the foods you are eating. Take the time to explain how to eat for nourishment instead of for comfort. And pay attention to how you are talking about your own body. Body-hate is learned. Your child is already receiving enough body-shaming messages through the media. Be positive with your eating habits and statements about self.
DO NOT REWARD WITH FOOD. It is a common habit for adults to reward children with food or candy but this reward does not offer any favors as an adult. Many of our eating patterns and cravings stem from the forbidden food or drink that could only be “earned” as a child. Instead, encourage fun foods and sweet treats for special occasions and find other small, non-food rewards, simple praise, and love for your kids and grandkids for a job well done.
ESTABLISH SNACK RULES. Are your kids starving when they get home from school? Do you find them snacking out of boredom? Create a snack drawer in your refrigerator that is stocked with nourishing snacks like string cheese, yogurt, fresh veggie sticks, apples and grapes. Establish a one-snack rule so kids don’t graze all afternoon. At our house, my kids must eat a healthy snack before any other snack. Help them identify which snacks are healthy choices that support the needs of their body.
CONSIDER YOUR ENVIRONMENT. If you don’t want your child to have junk food or sugary beverages, simply don’t bring them into your home. These foods are incredibly tempting and are highly addictive. This is a great tip for adults too! Stocking your environment (home, work, car) with “good choice” foods is key for maintaining strong eating habits.
We must eat to survive. Why not make food enjoyable and a fun adventure with the little ones in your life? Supporting each other with healthy options and good habits will be beneficial for all. I have a passion for building positive self-awareness and healthy habits in youth. Are you concerned about the eating habits of your child or teen? Contact me to discuss healthy solutions for your family.
Sara Wolfsen is a Certified Health & Lifestyle Coach who specializes in helping people make their own healthy changes by providing private health coaching, nutrition education and wellness classes, and gentle weight-loss guidance and support. Schedule your complimentary coaching session and learn more online at www.sarawolfsen.com.