When it comes to kids and food, there are often two extremes: The militant, health freak parents... Or the exact opposite. The media publicised recent research showing pint-sized pie holes were pigging out on plentiful portions of pizza-pies. Should we let kids be kids: have their pizza and eat it too, or is there perhaps a more palatable plan?
The way children eat and view food is strongly tied to the attitudes and behaviours of their parents (more on that here, here, and here). If daddy sits down to dinner and says "green beans, yuck..." and then turns to little Tommy and says "eat your vegetables", what message does little Tommy get? (Daddy's a hypocrite.)
Convenience, laziness (often going hand in hand) and lack of moderation are recurring cornerstones of western living. Pizza just happens to be the food of the day.
Certain 'unnatural', 'unhealthy', 'processed' foods, like pizza, trigger the human brain into addictive eating. New research shows some foods are more addicting than others. Foods high in fat and simple sugars (eg: pizza, cake, chocolate and soda) were more addictive than less processed foods (eg: a steak or apple). The vilification of food is a dangerous thing... But can you have your cake (or pizza) and eat it too?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends my favourite 'm' word regarding what children eat. Guessed it yet? Moderation! They recommend:
- Looking at the whole diet to determine its adequacy and healthfulness
- Foods and food constituents (sugar, fat, etc) shouldn't be 'banned'
- Parents step and and take responsibility (see the parents & school checklist here)
|Say no to saying no to junk food, sometimes|
Discipline is difficult. Discipline comes in many forms. Discipline and its execution takes strength and resilience. Discipline around food and eating are "teachable moments" delivered on a silver platter with a cherry on top.
Eating healthy isn't about rules, banning foods, vilifying ingredients or bad-mouthing cake and pizza. Remember that article where I told you to "eat those rules"? I meant it. Eating mindfully, enjoying all foods in moderation and not overthinking it are solid foundations for healthy pie holes (pint-sized and full grown.)
What to write home about:
- Unhealthy foods are not the devil
- Moderation rather than restriction
- Parental pro-activeness includes teaching children about healthy foods and portion sizes
- Parental pro-activeness also includes stepping up, leading by example and making healthy food available and desirable
- Think mindful eating vs mindlessly mowing through a tray of chocolate muffins
So can you have your cake and eat it too? I say, yes you can! Sometimes.