Before we became parents, most of us were raised on a pervasive diet of images, messages and peer pressure regarding how we should look and ways to achieve it.
Whether we grew up watching the 90s supermodels, obsessed with Beyoncé or intrigued by an impossibly flawless Instagram influencer, is it any wonder we carry with us certain body ideals and goals?
Despite our own uncertainties, insecurities and struggles with body image, as parents, we are now integral in shaping the self-esteem and attitudes towards the health of our children. And, because of this, it is so important that we take stock of any negative prejudices we have towards food.
It is crucial that we are mindful of the behaviour we model and that we set the tone (and stock the pantry) for balance.
We are only human and sometimes, even without realising it, we impart our own hang ups down the generation chain just as our parents and our grandparents may have done with us.
Kids learn by watching their parents, so if you have a tendency for deprivation or over-indulgence, it could lead to them repeating your legacy and, at the least, leave them confused about the role food should play in their lives.
But take heart, by following a few basic principles, you will help your child thrive through their relationship with food.
Practice mindful eating and enjoy your food.
If you’re not already, educate yourself on the nourishing qualities of different ingredients and feel good about their inclusion in your diet. If you’re stuck on ideas, my book Wholesome Child is a complete nutrition guide and cookbook, with meal plans and menu planning tips for the whole family. I also have host of simple, nutritious and tasty recipes available on my website.
Avoid fad diets.
There’s always a new fad diet that’s touted as a revolutionary new, better way of eating that people are tempted to try. One of the problems with eating programs like the Five-Two, Paleo or no sugar diets is that they exclude food groups that children need for their development (unless they have medical conditions, allergies or other special needs).
If you are trialling a fad diet, chances are that you are leaving out certain ingredients that often provide necessary nutrients in children’s diets. It’s also important to role model structure and skipping meals on a fast diet can send the wrong signals to children, who always benefit from eating regular meals.
Watch what you say about food.
Be careful with your words – don’t vilify certain foods. Speak positively about what you are eating; focus on what it can do for our bodies, rather than making it out to be something that can cause a reaction or something horrible to taste.
Be aware of how you talk about weight.
When a child hears their parent talking about their own need to lose (or put on) weight, it can lead to the child questioning the adequacy of their body. Instead of focusing on changing your appearance through strict, gruelling regimes, switch the focus and talk about how better nutrition can make you healthier.
And if your child catches you looking in the mirror, instead of lamenting how big your thighs are or how tight your jeans feel…turn it around and say something positive, such as, ‘wow, mom’s got strong legs’.
In a recent post I discussed how to navigate conversations if you are concerned about your child’s weight, as well as some nutritious alternatives for families with a sweet tooth: Creamy Chocolate Cashew Bunnies with no added sugar and a creamy cashew filling! Betta Than Nutella Choc Spread - the Wholesome Child twist on sugar-packed spreads, but with the same delicious flavour. Pop some on toast, in muffins or even use it as a dipping sauce. Chocolate Almond Scones are a yum twist on a traditional snack food. The addition of flaxseeds also boosts the fibre and fat content of these nutrient-dense scones.
Eat a healthy breakfast. Don’t skip meals. Schedule meals so your child has structure, the security of routine, and an understanding of when they will eat and the types of food they will eat and why (but don’t be so rigid that they - or you - are stressed if things don’t go to plan some days).
Some of our Wholesome Child quick and easy healthy breakfast favourites include: Pumpkin Spice Porridge, Scrambled Eggs with Leftover Veggies, Strawberry Beetroot Smoothie and our Cheesy Cauliflower French Toast with Mushrooms.
On the whole, remember you are the role model. You are helping to shape your child’s experience of mealtimes and their relationship towards food. Your improved state-of-mind, attitude and actions will eventually can help to teach your child to self-regulate their own eating habits and develop a healthy relationship towards food – and by taking this into consideration, ultimately you will also thrive.
To celebrate recently launching in the United States, Wholesome Child is offering a 15% discount on all online book purchases of “Wholesome Child: A Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook” using coupon voucher code: USA15 *Offer valid for purchases made via the Wholesome Child website only, limited to one use per person and expires 10/6/18.
Visit the Wholesome Child website to learn more about Mandy Sacher. Her book “Wholesome Child: A Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook” is available to purchase online and through iTunes. Connect with Mandy on Instagram and Facebook.