To read the original New York Times article, please click here.
Talking to kids about nutrition or weight can be a like tip-toeing your way through a conversational minefield, as author Lisa Damour describes it. And we agree! Although healthy eating habits should be developed at a young age, there is a delicate balance between too much and too little information when it comes to nutrition with children, teenagers, and young adults.
It can be difficult differentiating between helpful comments about healthy eating versus potentially pernicious comments about body weight or eating habits. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that encouraging children and adolescents to “eat healthy” may potentially trigger an eating disorder.
One piece of advice for parents with young children is to keep the conversation neutral. In other words, avoid topics including weight, calories, and or using words like “good” and “bad”. We recommend focusing more on “energy” and important “nutrients” to keep healthy and strong. You can also relate this to your child’s favourite activities. For example, if your child likes soccer, you can explain that bodies (including muscles, brain, organs) need energy for to be able to kick the ball and run. You could also go on to explain that a whole wheat peanut butter sandwich is a better energy source than a chocolate bar, for example. However, move away from the idea about “good” versus “bad” foods, as this can lead to a feeling of guilt when “indulging” on “bad” foods. Instead, focus on incorporating a variety of foods in moderation into a healthy diet.
Another piece of advice is to promote an attitude of self-care and mindfulness with children and teenagers. This involves tuning into their appetite, and consuming nutritious foods for the wellbeing of their body. Asking questions like “Are you hungry?” and “How hungry are you?” can help children tune into their hunger and appetite cues. Providing nutritious food choices for children and teens is also very important, so that they can have the opportunity to make healthy food choices.
Research consistently demonstrates that children’s eating habits tends to match those of their parents - including both food quality and food quantity. Parents who choose nutritious and wholesome foods at regular meal and snack times can reinforce healthy eating habits to their children, without even having to talk about it!
If you are parent concerned about your child or teenager’s food choices, and want to make sure they’re getting adequate nutrition for their growth and development - please click here to book a session with Alex or Stephanie today!