If you want your kids to learn to eat right you have to forget about nutrition — at least for a little while — and think about habits. When most people think about eating habits they either have some vague idea that about how well someone eats, or they think about etiquette (is your napkin on your lap, do you chew with your mouth closed, do you know which fork to use) or other manners such as whether you eat at the table, standing in the kitchen or in front of the television.
But that’s an incomplete way of thinking about eating habits. Eating habits reflect how we behave with regard to food on a regular and repeated basis. In other words, what does your child eat regularly, when does she eat most of the time, why does she usually eat and how much is she accustomed to consuming?
Habits are the key and once you change your focus from worrying about whether the food you provide is nutritious to establishing regular eating routines that work you’ll be on your way to ensuring your child enjoy’s a lifetime of healthy eating.
I know it sounds strange because you are constantly being bombarded with messages about nutrition. But you’ve already been teaching your child habits, whether you intended to or not. Does your child insist on eating PB&J, hot dogs and only one brand of chicken nuggets? Those are habits. Does your child skimp on meals and then demand snacks? That is a habit. How about vegetables? Are you constantly nagging your child to eat his pea? Did you know that by 18 months old the most common vegetable our children consume is french fries? Habit, habit, habit.
If you want to change the way your child eats, you need to focus on habits. Identify which ones your child has, which ones need to modified and then develop a plan for change.