You know the data. On any given day, more children eat cookies than eat carrots.
If you’re like most parents, you respond by working hard to get your kids to eat their veggies. You talk “up” the importance of peas. Encourage your kids to have a few more bites of broccoli. Maybe you even require carrots before cookies. But Ahhh. There’s always junk food.
Let me ask you: Do you ever feel like you’re treading water? Wonder when your kids will start eating asparagus on their own? I get it. Sure, you want to save your kids from a life full of junk food but you can’t seem to get a break.
Teach your kids why they can’t wear a bathing suit in the snow. It’ll help. Stay with me while I explain.
You can save your kids from a life full of junk food just by shifting your attention away from nutrition.
It doesn’t seem true, but it is.
There is no magic bullet. No one technique. It’s an approach. A system. A mindset. Once your kids know how to behave in relation to food they’ll make the right decisions.
Teaching kids to eat right is a lot like teaching them to get dressed. They need a few facts, some fundamental skills and the rules by which to make decisions.
Being a successful dresser requires kids to know 3 kinds of things:
- Technical Skills: Buttons, Zippers
- Decision-Making: When to wear bathing suits, when to wear tuxedos
Anatomy teaches kids that pants go on legs. Technical skills help kids get their clothes on and secured. And decision making helps kids figure out when to wear what. This is how they don’t show up at weddings wearing a bathing suit!
Being a successful eater requires kids to know the same 3 kinds of things:
- Facts: Nutrition Basics
- Technical Skills: Knives, Forks, Spoons
- Decision-Making: How to eat foods in relation to their healthful benefits (proportion), how to eat different kinds of foods (variety) and how to eat when hungry, not when full and not because they’re bored, sad or lonely (moderation).
It’s tempting to think parents are in charge of what children eat. In reality, children make this choice every time they open their mouths. Or clamp them shut.
Most of us do a pretty good job teaching our children about the knowledge and technical skills they need, but fall a little short when it comes to teaching them how to make decisions about eating. In truth, that’s because most of us don’t even think of it as something our young children need to do until they get older.
Children think they ought to be able to eat whatever they want to eat at any given moment. That usually includes junk food.
You have other reasons for making food and eating decisions. You children need to know these other reasons too.
- How much junk have they eaten lately?
- When is dinner?
- What food are you preparing?
Don’t assume that children will make the right decisions when they know which foods are good for them. And which foods are junk foods.
Kids don’t care about health. They care about other things like taste, texture and appearance. They care about familiarity. Comfort.
Telling children they should eat a particular food item because it’s healthy is pretty much guaranteed to make them NOT eat it, research shows.
In order to teach your children to make better choices you have to give them specific guidelines (i.e. we eat these foods more often than those foods) and you have to teach them to like a broad range of foods. You can’t just assume they’ll just pick this up. You need to communicate specifically about decision-making.
Kids Need Decision-Making Rules. Ambiguity is the enemy.
Here are three rules to get you started.
- We eat fruits and vegetables more often than sweets and treat. Or, you can have one sweet/treat per day.
- If you ate it yesterday you can eat it tomorrow but not today. This is The Rotation Rule.
- Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. Don’t eat because you’re bored, sad or lonely. Save room for dessert.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~