Moms rule. And I don’t just say that because I am a mom. Studies show that what moms say, do and don’t do with regards to nutrition in the home can positively impact their children’s nutrition practices. Positive parental control has been shown to actually protect against future dieting behavior in children. As parents, we have the opportunity to promote healthy eating as well as promote negative dieting behaviors. Avoiding the latter is important because there is a strong association with the development of eating disorders in children that diet. We do have a growing obesity problem in our country with adults and children alike. But dieting isn’t the answer. So what is a concerned parent to do?
Set some boundaries. When certain foods become “off limits” we often crave them even more. Deprivation often gives that “off limit” food some kind of power over us. So let favorite foods remain part of a healthful diet by putting them where they belong; not as a substitute for important nutrients. Moderation is the key, timing is important and setting up some basic boundaries is the basis of a solid nutritional foundation. When a ravished child walks in from the school yard, a “second lunch” with some fruit, grains and protein will nourish, and then a small cup of ice cream is a possibility. But ice cream, cookies or other lower nutrient foods don’t deserve the spotlight when the body is in need of refueling. That is when our bodies need to boost vitamins, minerals and nourishing, rather than empty, calories.
Model healthful eating. Parent’s decisions about what to buy, cook, and serve, and when and where to eat out are important in the sense that children learn from our actions, not our words. When fast food is limited and super sizing is discouraged, then children are learning that those practices may not be a healthy way to eat. Children also “learn” to eat based on what they see Mom and Dad eat at the dinner table. If they don’t ever see their parents eat a serving of carrots it is statically probable that they themselves will not think of eating them either. Our behavior is modeled so when we eat healthfully they can see nutritious dining in action.
Fuel on a regular schedule and honor hunger. Dieting for kids, or adults for that matter, is not the answer. If dieting worked then America would be super skinny. We spend billions every year on the dieting industry. Studies have shown that teens that diet increase body fat not reduce it. And kids who diet have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder. Kids should not go hungry and need to understand that hunger is normal and should be recognized. By fueling on a regular schedule, beginning with the all-important breakfast, kids can maintain the energy they need for their day. Getting too hungry usually results in making poor nutritional choices. Eating on a regular schedule helps prevent the “sugar fix” people often feel they need when mealtime is overdue.
Honoring hunger, eating on a regular schedule, consuming less nutritious foods in moderation while choosing tasty nutritious foods the majority of the time, balancing meals, going e-free more of the time and moving for fun on a daily basis are all steps in the health direction; for all of us.
Crumpacker is a registered dietitian and owner of Go Nutritious. Visit Barbra at gonutritious.com or email her at email@example.com.