Women’s Day 1/16/19
As a parent, mealtimes can be fraught with stress — your kids hate veggies, they barely touch their food, or they beg to skip straight to dessert. But here’s a good perspective: “A parent’s job is not to make children perfect eaters right now, but to help them develop the skills to feed themselves as adults,” says Brandi Olden, R.D.N., a board-certified specialist in pediatric nutrition in Bellevue, Washington. Here are the answers to three of your top questions about raising a good eater.
Question: I’VE HEARD YOU SHOULDN’T REWARD WITH FOOD, BUT IS IT THAT BAD TO CELEBRATE AN A+ WITH ICE CREAM?
Answer: That triumphant trip to the ice cream shop is innocent enough, but regularly rewarding your kids with food can attach powerful emotions to eating. “You don’t want to put foods up on a pedestal,” says Lisa Ellis, R.D., a nutrition therapist based in Westchester, New York, because it can lead to overeating later in life. Indulge in a sweet reward only on occasion, and other times, celebrate with a fun movie night or a mini-golf outing.
Question: MY KID THINKS VEGETABLES AND OTHER HEALTHY FOODS ARE “ICKY.” WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE THEM MORE APPEALING?
Answer: Expose him to the foods regularly, and routinely ask him to try just one little taste. That means serving, say, Brussels sprouts or green beans once every week for a month or two — and not giving up after your kid pushes them away the first few times.
“After five to 10 times, young children can develop an increased acceptance for the food,” says Julie Lumeng, M.D., a developmental behavioral pediatrician at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
Question: MY TEENAGER IS WORRIED ABOUT GAINING WEIGHT. HOW CAN I HELP HER THINK MORE POSITIVELY ABOUT FOOD?
Answer: Avoid using food labels, like “bad foods” or “cheat foods,” yourself. If your teen is worried about eating certain categories of foods (like carbs), talk about how most foods can fit into a healthy diet in some way. And while you’re at it, don’t talk about dieting.
Teens with parents who encouraged them to diet were more likely to be overweight or obese, binge eat, and have lower body satisfaction as adults, according to recent research in the journal Pediatrics. And if you often talk about your own fear of gaining weight, discuss your new diet, or stigmatize other people’s bodies, they may start to think that they too should be striving for thinness.
When to get help: If you suspect that your child has an eating disorder — signs can include an intent focus on calories, skipping meals, or disappearing after eating — talk to his or her doctor or consult the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Helpline at 800-931-2237.