Investing in Family: Teaching Good Eating Habits

I have never been good at eating. Scratch that. I've never been good at eating well. Since my teen years, I have yo-yo dieted, and it wasn't until recently that I discovered some of the reasons my weight and I have fought like cats in heat: I have a low resting metabolism; my estimations of portion sizes were way off; and I like tasty (but oh-so-very-bad-for-me) foods. All of that has led me to many struggles over my adult life, and I hope to teach my children to eat well from the get-go. How? Well, let me lay out my plan.

Start Young

I plan to begin the food-harmony journey for my children by introducing them to healthy foods from the very beginning. Fruits, vegetables, dairy, fish, chicken, beans and whole grains will be my focus, all at age appropriate time periods. As my children grow, I'll encourage them to try new foods, but I won't push any items. I'll let them taste items and decide if they wish to add certain foods to their healthy-foods favorites.

Why this approach? Well, through all of the parenting magazines I’ve been reading lately, I learned that pushing foods on children can actually turn them off from the foods. Kids have amazing taste buds, so they truly may detest the taste of, say, bitter vegetables. Over the years, as taste buds deaden, a food like asparagus can be revisited – as long as the child has not developed a mental aversion to the food, which can happen when foods are pushed upon them.

In any case, I hope that introducing healthy foods can jump-start healthy eating in my children. Then, I can focus on other ideas in healthy eating, like the next few.

Let Their Stomachs Decide

Kids also eat a lot, but they don't do so in the same ways that adults do. Instead of sitting down for three large square meals per day, children often snack throughout the day, eating more often rather than in large quantities. Most kids also have an innate ability to tell when they are full; they will often stop eating when their little stomachs scream, "No more!"

For that reason, I will not push my children to eat more than their bodies tell them to eat. As long as the snacks and small meals they eat are healthy, they'll get all the nutrients their growing bodies need. This should help them listen to their bodies in the years to come and keep them from developing the same overeating habits that I did in my teens.

Teach Pre-Teens Nutrition Basics

The balance between being overbearing about a teen's weight and tuning out their health needs is a pretty fine line. At least it was for my friends and me. When my mom would say anything about my (chunky) weight, I would cry for days. But not saying anything about nutrition basics wasn't helping either.

Now, as an adult, I can see how difficult it was for my mother to decide that I would learn in time. Her thought was that I would eventually find my balance in weight. And I did...but not for 20 years.

For that reason, I hope to introduce the basics about portion sizes and nutrition needs to my children during the pre-teen years. We'll discuss how much restaurants over-feed us. We'll look at how much food (and what kinds) we all really need to stay healthy. But that's where I'll stop; no calorie counting lessons unless my child asks for them in teen years.

Overall, I want to strike a balance. I believe that kids should decide on their own to eat a healthy diet, but I think that a little introduction and education can go a long way toward setting healthy eating habits for life.

Weigh in below! How do you teach your kids to develop healthy eating habits?

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Anonymous wrote:

Sun, 08/05/2012 - 01:54 Comment #: 1

Thank you for the great tips! I don't have kids yet, but your insight will definitely help me in the future once I do;-) Thank you!

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