Yesterday millions of Americans celebrated the annual tradition of Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is a day in which many children (young and old) take the time out to recognize their mothers for all that they have done for them throughout their lives. Commonly one of a mother’s largest roles in their child’s life is providing nutrition. Although a child’s eating preferences are shaped by many components, numerous studies have proven the large impact parents have on their child’s food intake. I think this is a perfect time to take a look at how a mother can provide a positive influence on her children’s eating habits.
Let’s explore how a mother can have positive influences on their child’s nutritional behaviors.
1. Learn what eating healthy really means. It is important that if you don’t understand how to eat healthy you consult a registered dietitian. There are a lot of food myths available on television and on the Internet – be careful about the advice you take.
2. Set a good example. Many children develop their eating behaviors by watching how their parents eat. You are the role model.
3. Create a healthy environment. Try to provide an environment that encourages healthy eating habits. Make sure that healthy food options (ie. fruits, whole grains, nuts, etc.) are available in the house. This does not mean that some less healthy options should not be available every once in a while.
4. Make it fun! Get your children involved in the meal preparation process – this could be including them in the grocery shopping, meal planning, or food preparation. There are millions of healthy recipes available online (and hopefully soon through 360fn) that are not only exciting to make, but that also have a fun appearance.
When trying to make your household healthier you should also consider the DO NOTS.
1. Don’t be too controlling. You should allow your children to make some food choice on their own. Children who have limited food choices as a young child have more difficulty making healthy food choices as an adult.
2. Don’t restrict foods. This recommendation goes alongside the previous recommendation. Some children who are never allowed to eat cookies and other junk foods end up overcompensating on these types of foods later in life. Children need to develop the understanding of balance – they can have a cookie on occasion, but not as a part of every meal.
3. Don’t pressure your child to eat. I still remember in kindergarten school when I was punished for not eating beans one day at lunch. To this day I have a large aversion to most beans and choose not to eat them. It is important that children learn to develop their own taste buds and learn the flavors they enjoy.
4. Don’t offer rewards for eating habits. One of the largest mistakes parent’s make is to offer food and other various activity rewards for eating certain foods. This can have a negative effect on a child’s food acceptance.
5. Don’t give up! I was an extremely picky eater while I was growing up, so I understand the difficulty many mothers may have with getting their children to eat healthier foods. It took me nearly twenty years to make significant changes, but it did happen. There is always hope!
Happy belated Mother’s Day!