The Number One Way to Support Your Child’s Health

Take a moment to think about your childhood. Were there things your parents may have done or said that shaped your relationship with food and your body? A common observation I hear from my adult clients usually goes along the lines of “One of my parents was always on a diet.” We all know that children truly watch everything their parents say and do. Whether or not a parent is aware, they ultimately influence how their child will view food and their body in the future.

Instead of further contributing to the diet culture that runs rampant in our society, our role as parents is to integrate health into daily life while allowing children to create their own ideas of what this looks like for their body and their life. Here are some tips to help you build a healthy foundation for your children to learn from.

 

Practical advice from a dietitian

Show by example

Children learn far more from example than they do from words. The most important step you can take is to work on your own relationship with food and your body, as we know how much this can shape our children. Give yourself compassion in the process. There are many events and conversations that contribute to our personal relationship, so it will take time and patience, but you deserve it and so do your children.

Keep in mind that you want to lead by example in all areas of your life. For example, leave your phone away from the table at meals, put music on at meals instead of having the TV on, or try reading before bed with your children.

 

Incorporate movement

Work on building health into your everyday routine. For example, movement doesn’t have to be going to the gym. It can be going for a walk, going to the park or having dance party in the kitchen with your kids. It should truly be what you enjoy! Learn a new skill with your kids. If your kids are learning how to skip, grab a rope and join in!

 

Try new habits

Get your children involved in the kitchen.

  • Ask them what their favourite meals are when planning for the week.
  • Get them involved with meal prep. For young children, they can tear lettuce while older children can shred carrots or chop vegetables.
  • Get your kids involved in making their own lunches while you are preparing supper.
  • Encourage them to pick out one new food at the grocery store to try each week.
  • Let your kids help with the dishes!

 

Enjoy treats

Allow treats to be fun and enjoyable for everyone. This will help teach your children that all foods can be included and enjoyed in a balanced lifestyle. Allow your children to pick and choose what they would like to have based on what they enjoy most. If you would like more tips on this topic, check out our blog on handling treats.

 

 

The Division of Responsibility

Parenting is tough. Whether you are raising your children on your own or with a partner, take time to think about the environment that you want to create for your children to grow up in. For example, do you eat at the table, or in the living room? Is the TV on whenever, or at set times? Setting this foundation will help your children long-term consistency is key!

We’ve talked about your day as a whole. It can be overwhelming to think about supporting your children in all these different areas. A good place to start is Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in feeding. In short…

  • As the parent, you are responsible for what, when and where
  • Your child is responsible for how much and whether

The Division of Responsibility might seem foreign at first. However, maintaining these roles can help your children develop a healthy relationship with food as they grow. Allowing your children to regulate how much they eat and whether they will eat is a powerful step in enabling them to listen to their internal hunger and fullness cues. We all started out eating this way, but with messages like “Finish everything on your plate,” followed by growing up in a society obsessed with diet culture, external factors can make it easy to lose our focus. Trust that your children know how much they need to eat, regardless of whether you think this is a lot or a little.

 

By Kalin Herbach – Registered Nutritionist/Dietitian

Revive Wellness is a team of skilled and passionate Registered Nutritionists specialized in nutrition and wellness coaching for the Edmonton area.

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