Raising a healthy family has become such a priority today in so many families. We see weight being addressed in studies trying to figure out the obesity epidemic and why it is so prevalent in the United States. Even our First Lady, Michelle Obama, has a campagin to help families learn to move together and eat healthier. No matter where you turn there are diet books, pills, body wraps and even plastic surgery to lose weight. What if I told you all of these factors are just making our families less healthy? What if I told you the one missing component is the HOW of feeding our families?
Okay, I’ve said… HOW we feed our families is more important than WHAT we feed. Could it really be that simple?
Studies have shown that a child of a chronic dieter will be be more likely to suffer from poor body image and yo-yo dieting themselves. Children that grow up without learning how to handle sweets, treats and splurges may suffer from chronic over eating, sneaking and shame with food. Children not given the opportunity to sneak up on new foods and enjoy them may always be uncomfortable around food. Now, I’ve rarely met a parent that sets out to intentionally derail their child’s chances at eating successfully, but sometimes it can happen without even realizing it.
These Basic Rules can help every member of the family come to the table and eat well!
1. Forget about your own agenda
I know it’s hard when you want to see your child finish everything on their plate or brag to your friends how your child loves fruits and vegetables when the reality is, they hate them all! Having your own agenda will backfire big time when it come to raising a good eater. Throw your agenda out the window, your children will see right through it!
2. As the parent decide WHAT is SERVED
Children do best when their parents decide what is served at the table. Planning the meals leaves you in charge of providing balanced meals with healthful and less healthful choices. I mean really, if you asked me every night when I was a child what I wanted for dinner, it would have been pizza every night…okay, maybe not just as a child lol!
3. Allow the child to decide WHAT to EAT from what is served
Place all items on the family table, allow children to pick and choose from what is served. Children typically under 2 years old will benefit from the parent putting everything on their plate/tray that is being served. Children over 2 years old should be allowed to serve themselves from what is on the table. Allow them to put things on their plate and not eat them, allow them to put something in their mouth and politely spit them out if they are uncomfortable with it and allow them to say no thank you to anything that is served. While they are managing their own eating, learn to enjoy your own meal without micromanaging!
4. Serve Dessert with Meals
Oh boy, yup that is what I said. Children who learn that dessert is not special, will eat it, enjoy it and move on! Occasionally, put 1 serving of dessert WITH the meal. Allow the child to eat it in any order they desire. If they eat up all their dessert first and are still hungry, they can pick and choose from what else is on the table.
5. Support them in their eating
Bear the weight of most of the decisions by deciding WHAT, WHEN and WHERE to feed your family. Then step back and allow them to do their job of eating!
I know this seems all too simple and believe me it sounds way more simple than it actually is! I can tell you as dietitian raising a 1 year old that you will get caught up in your own agenda at times and you will unintentionally interfere with their eating or maybe your spouse will, but keep reading and rereading these rules until they become a norm in your family!
I’d love to hear your experience with feeding your family or how you were fed has effected your eating as an adult? Feel Free to Comment below!