One thing I know for sure, you can’t feed kids one way and expect them to grow up and eat a different way.
Habits learned early in life tend to stick around. This may be particularly true when it comes to snacking habits.
That’s why it baffled me when I read a study about adolescent’s bad snacking habits and the researchers wondered how it was that the adolescents developed these bad habits. Huh?
The researchers speculated that adolescents, in their search for autonomy, purchase unhealthy snacks. What? As a way to piss off their parents? This assumes that kids coming into adolescence don’t already have unhealthy snacking habits. Research shows they do. Indeed, children are most likely to snack on salty snacks, sweets, grain desserts and sugary beverages. Is it any wonder adolescents do too?
The key to understanding the research on habits is to understand the term habits.
To repeat. Habits aren’t just repeated behaviors. Habits are automatic responses to situations or cues.
Habit strength is the most important predictor of unhealthy snack intake. Further, habits strength is more important than intentions in determining unhealthy eating.
I know, it sounds like circular reasoning but it’s not. The stronger your automatic behavior the more likely you are to engage in that behavior, regardless of intention.
- Unhealthy snacking is something I do frequently.
- Unhealthy snacking is something I do without thinking.
- I eat XXX number of snacks on average each day.
The best way to minimize the amount of poor snacking that adolescents do is to minimize the amount of poor snacking that younger children do.
Sounds obvious, I know.
- Children don’t need to snack.
- If children snack they should have predetermined snack times. I call these Eating Zones. Grazing is associated with poor snacking habits.
- Make fruits and vegetables the go-to snack.
- Teach kids the principle of proportion to include salty and sweet snacks in a way that works.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~