As we grow older we become more conscious about our food choices and healthy nutrition. Part of our job of being a parent is not only to teach our children how to maintain a healthy diet, which is extremely important by its own merit; what is even more important in my point of view is to create a healthy attitude toward food from a young age. We want to avoid eating disorders, self esteem issues and other unhealthy relationships with food that children can develop from a very young age and are left to deal with for the rest of their lives.
1. Be a role model – Eat moderately and healthy and be active. Refrain from criticizing your body as you are teaching your child to do the same.
2. Communicate your choices to your child – Explain why is it important to you to exercise including its benefits, why are you choosing to buy organic food and so on… This is your opportunity to teach your child everything you have learned about nutrition and healthy living.
3. Avoid going to the extreme – Not allowing your child to eat candy or chocolate does not sit well with them. They will develop a craving for anything that is not allowed and will find other ways to get it (for example, trading snacks at school, eating at friends’ homes and in some cases taking food without permission). Human nature’s tendency is to desire the forbidden; when parents single out candy as something bad they are without exception setting unreasonable expectations of their child. What needs to be offered is an explanation about why large quantities of candy are not the best idea, and then educate your child to find a healthier available treat , such as whole wheat cookies, a fruit, and so on – but without totally excluding treats.
4. Create and maintain an open channel of communication around this subject – Share with your child some of your successes or challenges regarding healthy eating. It is important that your child know that this is a life journey in which you make countless decisions every day.
Our objective as parents is to steer our child away from being obsessive about food. With lots of restrictions the child may feel in a virtual prison and then her natural inclination will be to seek freedom by eating all that she is not allowed. We need to be very careful as parents to raise the issue of nutrition without making it too big of an issue. This is a very delicate balancing act that requires a lot of adjusting along the way, but you want to make sure that you are monitoring your child to make sure she has a healthy attitude toward one of the basic needs in life.