Recently I recorded a podcast with fellow nutritionist Laura Thomas on how to raise an intuitive eater. If you haven't listened already please do go and check it out here
We talked about the importance of using appropriate language to build positive relationships with children and food. Here’s a brief summary:
- Avoid forbidding foods: Research demonstrates that forbidding or restricting a food (any food) makes it more appealing. So telling a child they can't have something or that certain foods are reserved only for treats or special occasions can make them more desirable.
- As the parent you're ultimately the one in control at meal and snack times. You decide on WHEN it is a meal or snack time (a structured routine is important) and WHAT the food is, but put trust in your child to decide HOW MUCH of the food they want to eat. No ‘just one more spoonful’ or ‘you can’t eat your pudding until you’ve cleared your plate’ chat! – Not easy I know
- Have conversations about variety. If your child is always asking for biscuits it’s ok to allow them a biscuit if it’s an appropriate meal or snack time according to your usual routine. However if your child asks for 2 or 3 more biscuits, try to initiate a conversation about variety and importance of eating lots of different foods to keep us healthy. It’s not OK to eat a whole packet of biscuits just as it’s not OK to eat a whole bag of apples.
- Create a level playing field with foods. No foods should be referred to as bad, naughty, sinful or cheats – this can induce feelings of guilt when we eat them. Instead talk about all foods as if they are a useful and enjoyable part of the diet. Going nuts over having an ice cream but turning a blind eye if they eat a satsuma just makes the ice cream appear to be much more exciting food.
- Don’t ignore the public health messages – I’m aware that we didn’t get a chance to discuss this on the podcast but that’s not to say they should be forgotten about. We know that too many children are starting primary school already overweight or obese and a shocking number of children are suffering with tooth decay as a result of eating and drinking too many sugary foods and drinks. Allowing children to graze on biscuits and sweets to their hearts content is not what we mean when we say eat intuitively. The message is more about enlisting some trust in your child that they will listen to their natural satiety cues and stop when they are full (providing we haven’t coached them to ignore these signs with our ‘one more mouthful’ chat). We just need to guide them on the variety message until they are old enough to grasp the importance of that themselves.
If you want to hear more do go and check out the podcast – it’s a long one but hopefully a useful one too. If you want to know more about intuitive eating then Laura's your girl - that's totally her bag so go check out her page. If you want to know more about infant, maternal and paediatric nutrition then please give me a shout I’d be happy to continue the conversation.