Of all the responsibilities at hand as parents, teaching kids how to eat can be one of the most daunting.
As a dietitian, examples of questions I hear all the time are “How do I get them to eat more fruits and vegetables?” or “How can I add variety to their diet without having World War III at the dinner table every night?” and “Why won’t they eat ‘good food.’” In a later blog post, I will address how to present food to your children in a very constructive way. First, I have to address you as parents.
In the paragraph above I wrote “good” food in quotations because most people think of food as “good” or “bad” and we often communicate that to our children. But, have you ever considered the fact that your beliefs about food might be what is hindering your child from being a competent eater? My personal and professional experience has taught me that the best way to look at food is not as “good” or “bad” as food does not and is incapable of offering us any sense of morality. The best way to look at food is through the lens of “all foods fit in variety, balance, and moderation.” You can easily come right back to me and say, “Yeah but not all food is created equal” and I would agree with you. I would never claim that a cookie is equivalent to an apple. They are different and provide different nutrients to the body, but they can both fit. If you refuse to believe this you will have a hard time ending the food battle with your child. If you can however get behind the idea of variety, balance, and moderation, then you are on your way to winning not just the battle, but the war.
“Variety, balance, and moderation”
To explain further the importance of this truth becoming the dominant theme for your culture of food in your home, let us think about human nature. When there are things, people, experiences, etc. in our lives that are unattainable and off limits, there is always preoccupation around that which is forbidden. Food is no different. Your child might actually really not care for macaroni and cheese and actually really enjoy baked fish. However, if macaroni and cheese is demonized and fish made abundantly present, the battle for macaroni and cheese is going to be very important to that toddler or school-aged child. If there is neutral conversation about both foods, both may be enjoyed in moderation.
In short, if all foods are permissible and allowed, no food is going to be of any terrible interest. Your child will have preferences as anyone does and this may take a while for everyone in your home to really trust, but in the end, you will be a more competent feeder and your kids will be more competent eaters. To learn more about how to implement these principles further and to make moderation, variety, and balance a reality, tune into my next blog entitled, “How to get kids to be competent eaters!”