I wrote this post as a participant in the Eat, Play, Love blog carnival hosted by Meals Matter and Dairy Council of California to share ideas on positive and fun ways to teach children healthy eating habits. A list of other registered dietitians and moms who are participating in the carnival will be listed at the bottom of this post or can be found on Meals Matter.
The first Wednesday of every month at 8 pm EST is the RDChat on twitter. It is where registered dietitians (RDs) and anyone else that is interested convene on twitter for a different topic each month. There is a moderator and several guest experts driving the conversation. This month’s RDChat topic was Raising Healthy Eaters and featured two fabulous dietitians, Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen. Both have great blogs that I read regularly.
It was a lively chat with some great insight, tips and advice on how to raise healthy eaters. I have talked about this topic several times on my blog, and most recently, in my guest post on Dr. Z and Friends. Here is a brief summary of some of the main points that were discussed in the chat:
- We need to change the paradigm to focus on feeding rather than food. Much of our obesity problems and other childhood eating problems go back to feeding and the “HOW” rather than the “WHAT.” This is where Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility comes into play. A parent is responsible for setting the structure of meals and providing choices but then needs to get out of the way and let children do the rest. It is a difficult thing to do, but parents must trust the child to know what he/she needs.
- Parents override children’s hunger cues with behaviors such as prompting, pressuring, restricting or even controlling food. We are all born with innate abilities to regulate our food intake to match our hunger levels. All too often, we lose that ability for a variety of reasons and this is how obesity or other food-related issues develop. Children’s appetites can vary widely from day to day. It is up to the child to decide how much to eat, and if to eat at all.
- Parents can heal their own food issues by learning to feed their children right. Many people feed their children according to how they were raised or maybe even in direct opposition to how they were raised, which may or may not be the best way. I highly recommend all of Ellyn Satter’s books which discuss feeding strategies. Also, parents need to remember that they are role models for their children and any issues with food or body image do not go unnoticed in young children and can have profound and lasting effects.
- Have family meals regularly where everyone sits down at the table. Research has shown there are numerous benefits to family meals, such as less likelihood of obesity, less risky behavior in teenagers, etc. While dinner is the traditional meal that everyone thinks about as the family meal, it does not have to be. Having a sit down family breakfast is another great routine to start when schedules and time allow. But it is also important to remember not to overschedule your children or yourself so that there never is a time for family meals. Parents need to sit down with the children at the table and teach children about the social aspects of eating as well.
- Menu planning is a necessity to cut down on stress and save time. Have you gotten the message yet that I love menu planning? While it takes a little time in the beginning, it gets much easier as you go. Also, it is a necessity to plan ahead when your children have after school activities. The weekend is a great time for not only planning ahead but doing some cooking ahead as well. I have a short video up on YouTube talking about menu planning with great resources.
- Involve children in menu planning and grocery shopping. There is no reason you have to do all the work yourself! The more that children are involved in the process, the more willing they are to eat and try new things. Grocery shopping trips are a great time to teach children about nutrition and learning to read food labels.
- Your pantry/cupboards/refrigerator is your child’s grocery store. Keep a variety of healthy foods on hand that are easily accessible.
So what challenges do you face in raising healthy eaters?
Don’t stop here! Join the carnival and read other Eat, Play, Love blogs from dietitians and moms offering the best advice on raising healthy eaters. And if you don’t get enough today, for more positive, realistic and actionable advice from registered dietitian moms, register for the free, live webinar Eat, Play, Love: Raising Healthy Eaters on Wednesday, May 18.
The Best-Kept Secret for Raising Healthy Eaters, Maryann Jacobsen, MS, RD
Feeding is Love, Jill Castle, MS, RD, LDN
5 Quick Ways to Prepare Veggies with Maximum Flavor, Dayle Hayes, MS, RD
The Art of Dinnertime, Elana Natker, MS, RD
Children Don’t Need a Short Order Cook, Christy Slaughter
Cut to the Point – My Foodie Rules, Glenda Gourley
Eat, Play, Love – A Challenge for Families, Alysa Bajenaru, RD
Eat, Play, Love ~ Raising Healthy Eaters, Kia Robertson
Get Kids Cooking, Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN
Kid-Friendly Kitchen Gear Gets Them Cooking, Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD
Kids that Can Cook Make Better Food Choices, Glenda Gourley
Making Mealtime Fun, Nicole Guierin, RD
My Top Ten Tips for Raising Lifelong Healthy Eaters, EA Stewart, RD
My No Junk Food Journey – Want to Come Along?, Kristine Lockwood
My Recipe for Raising Healthy Eaters: Eat Like the French, Bridget Swinney MS, RD, LD
Playing with Dough and the Edible Gift of Thyme, Robin Plotkin, RD, LD
Picky Eaters Will Eat Vegetables, Theresa Grisanti, MA
Putting the Ease in Healthy Family Eating, Connie Evers, MS, RD, LD
Raising a Healthy Eater, Danielle Omar, MS, RD
Raising Healthy Eaters Blog Carnival & Chat Roundup, Ann Dunaway Teh, MS, RD, LD
Soccer Mom Soapbox, Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD
Teenagers Can Be Trying But Don’t Give Up, Diane Welland MS, RD
What My Kids Taught Me About Eating Mindfully, Michelle May, MD