Thursday, February 18, 2010

Empowering kids to eat healthy

Its vital that children be trusted to make smart food choices. This is not always easy to do when surrounded by trusted adults who seem incapable of eating right.

Unlike most of the kids I knew, we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner with balance. At dinner, there was always meat, veg & carb, as well as salad.

What tripped me up and caused my weight gain as a child was my parents’ lack of attention to what I might be eating when not at home.

If I was with my sisters' I essentially ate the same way as at home. However, when with other family or friends, I got more junk food. This causes two problems: we are told to do as our elders tell us and society teaches to go with the herd.

The worst offenders were actually my aunt & uncle. She was a diabetic who drank diet soda and he was a cookie hound. Couple this with their youngest daughter's love of ramen noodles... Even worse? Both of them were teachers, who presumably knew something about proper diet, yet had a house full of overweight children.

I hated diet soda then and I hate it now. The taste is atrocious. But you shovel in enough ramen and cookies; you barely notice what you are washing it down with. I only drank water if my dad was around. Fruits and vegetables were unknown quantities. This, by the way, will make even the most petite into the most not so petite.

I feel that the key is to be aware of what your kids are eating, even when you are not around. Yes, I had good eating habits instilled in me, but my mom often sent us to spend time with her older brother’s family. Surely he could be trusted to make sure her kids were eating right?

This is a tough one. We want kids to have good eating habits and trust their own judgment, and then plunk them down with adults they trust who eat terribly. More than just instilling kids with the knowledge of how to eat well, we need to give them the confidence to listen to their own intuition. This allows them to make better food choices in the face of otherwise dependable friends and family members.

Should I have kids, I will make an effort to listen to likes and dislikes. These change, they grow and forcing kids to eat food they hate means it takes longer should they ever decide they love it. Allowing children the freedom to feel they can say ‘no’ to bad food without ridicule or demands to join the clean plate, empowers them to enjoy what they eat.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I love how you point out that kids behave differently in different places and with different people. I used to teach high school and saw girls carry a completely different set of (somewhat slutty) clothes in their backpacks, only to change when they got to school. I realize it's not food - but the behavior is the same. Kids do what is expected of them when the expectations are there. Otherwise, they go with the flow and follow peer pressure. I am so happy you remind us (parents, especially) that there are other factors at plan than just teaching them well at home.


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