Worried about the rise of childhood obesity in our country, or just not sure how many sweets you should be giving your child? Either way, there’s no time like the present to teach your kids to have a healthy relationship with food.
Gail Rizzo, a child and family counselor with St. Elizabeth Healthcare, shares three ways to help your kids find nutritional balance.
Set a good example.
If you have a healthy relationship with food yourself, your child likely will, too. That means don’t use food as a reward – for yourself or for your kids.
“Instead of saying, ‘You guys were great today, so let’s go for ice cream,’ say ‘You guys were great today, so let’s go for a hike,’” Rizzo said.
Frame food in a positive way.
If you approach a child and say, “You’re probably not going to like this, but we’re going to eat broccoli anyways,” your child probably isn’t going to like it, Rizzo said.
Instead, if you say something like, “Isn’t this piece of broccoli neat? It looks like a tree? Isn’t that cool? We’re eating trees,” Rizzo said, the reception likely will be much better.
Also, make mealtime more about enjoying time with family and not just about what you’re serving.
Don’t banish sweets completely.
If you never let your child enjoy dessert or candy, it will just make him or her want it more.
“It’s the analogy of holding a bean between two of your fingers,” Rizzo said. “If you hold it lightly, it will probably stay there. If you squeeze too tightly, though, it’s going to pop out.”
Moral of the story? The more you say no to kids, the more they’re going to want it.
The trick to teaching your kids to have a healthy relationship with food is to find a balance, Rizzo said. If you set a good example, frame food in a positive way and don’t banish sweets completely, you’ll teach your kids that dessert can be a fun treat, but that it’s not what’s going to sustain them.
“It’s not putting food on a pedestal,” she said. “It’s showing kids that it’s food. It’s what helps us live.”