Back to Basics: Positive Eating (General Guide for Families and Individuals)

This month’s article was written by Jillane Moffit, LLMSW, an active professional member of SMEDA.

Positive Eating

     The kitchen is a great place to help develop positive eating habits. Speaking positively about healthy foods and role-modeling balanced eating is essential in helping develop a healthy relationship with food.

 Plan and prepare meals

      Children can learn about positive eating by playing a helpful role in meal planning and preparing family meals, such as washing vegetables, doing some mixing, reading recipes and chopping ingredients…  Cook meals at home and try to encourage your child to help you. Involve your kids in the shopping, too.  Involving the whole family in preparing food will lead to more support for what is served at the table.

      Talk about foods from the five food groups and what they do for your body. For instance, “this apple is so crunchy and delicious – its flesh is helping to keep me staying regular and it’s filling me up with its nutritious sweetness.” Or “these carrot sticks contain a super nutrient called beta carotene that helps my eyes stay sharp and focused.” Or “this delicious glass of milk contains calcium – it helps my bones and teeth stay strong.”

 Eat breakfast

     Breakfast is the first important meal of the day.  Encourage your child to eat a nutritious breakfast every day, using foods from the five food groups.  Enjoying a healthy breakfast gives you and your child the best start to your day. When breakfast is a part of the family routine it provides more energy and better concentration.

 Continue mealtime routines

     The experience at the dinner table can have an impact on your approach to food later in life. Follow your hunger cues and offer a balanced diet. The benefits of meals go beyond nutrition.  Sharing food and talking around the table encourages other healthy behaviors.  Mealtimes are an opportunity for children and adults to build stronger bonds with those closest to them. It also gives them the chance to receive the support they need to minimize negative influences.

 Don’t forget about physical activity

     Being physically active is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.  Make time to play outside or be active.  Be a role model and make physical activity an event by going for a walk, riding a bike, playing in the park or kicking a ball around.  Start increasing incidental exercise such as walking to school or shops, taking the stairs (not the elevator), sweeping the path, or doing some gardening.

 References

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2012. Australia’s food & nutrition 2012. Cat. no. PHE163. Canberra: AIHW.

 Berger, E. (2013, Sept. 27). About Kids Health. Promoting positive eating habits.  http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca

Harper, K.U., Sanders, K.M. (1975) The effect of adult’s eating on young children’s acceptance of unfamiliar foods. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 20: 206-14. 10. 

NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care 2007-2008. 5.

 ‘Who’s feeding your toddler?’ Infant & Toddler Forum survey 2010.

 www.healthykids.nsw.gov.au