Developing good eating habits for children (and adults)

Friday, February 17th, 2012

A healthy lifestyle is one of the key components to happiness. When you are in good health, your body feels great and functions at its highest potential.  A well-balanced diet can provide the body with all the nutrition it needs to function successfully. For some of us, making good food choices was a skill we learned as children. Others still struggle with these choices as adults. Recently we met with Julie Dillon, a registered Dietitian and Nutrition Therapist, who had some great tips for teaching children and adults to make health choices.

Make mealtime less complicated.
If you don’t have time to make a four-course dinner, make breakfast instead. It doesn’t have to take hours to make in order for it to be good for you.

Eat your meals together.
While it may not be possible to eat together all the time, try to have at least one meal a day together. It’s not only a great time to bond, but it’s also a way to set a healthy example for you kids. Making food an enjoyable experience will help your kids have healthy thoughts and positive emotions associated with mealtime.

Cook with your child whenever possible.
Let them help with tasks that are appropriate. One suggestion Julie had was to prepare vegetables first. Let them help wash vegetables. Kid’s are typically hungry around mealtime. By having veggies prepped and handy, your child may surprise you by reaching munching on these instead of less healthy options.

Plant a small garden with your child.
If you have the yard or green space, this is a fun way to help them understand where their food comes from. In today’s world, instant gratification is everywhere. Giving your children an understanding of the time and energy it takes to produce what is on the plate promotes healthy eating and shopping later in life.

Keep food neutral. 
There are no bad foods, just foods we should eat less of.  When you tell a child French fries are bad, they associate them with all other bad things. French fries are equal to hitting, lying and any other behaviors you tell them are off limits.  Their brains do not comprehend the difference. This can cause confusion when they are then allowed to eat what they were told is bad.  When eating foods like fries, use portion control. Let them enjoy the experience and when it’s over, don’t give them any more.  The same applies to adults.  Don’t deprive yourself of food you enjoy because they’re “bad for you” just eat those foods in moderation.

Adult habits are a little different than that of a child’s. You understand your body more. Julie suggests start by paying attention to what the body needs.  If you currently don’t have healthy eating habits, a good way to start is by going with your gut, literally. Only eat when you are hungry.  If you realize you are searching the pantry or eating when you’re not actually hungry, stop what you are doing and think.  Are you thirsty, tired or maybe stressed?  Try to figure out the why and then work on the real issue behind the behavior.  Reserve food for nourishing your body at meal and snack times. It may sound simple but for many of us this can be a difficult skill to master.  If this sounds too hard try putting yourself on a schedule.  Allow yourself three meals and three snacks a day and eventually your body will get the hang of it.


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