I was horrified to hear from a secondary student at one of our schools that they had a talk about nutrition from visiting dieticians where vegetables where hardly mentioned. I was also horrified to see a current Diabetic help publication with a healthy food pyramid that is quite out of date….cereals and breads at the base of the pyramid is what is behind the obesity epidemic because people took to believing carbs are the go and got stuck into high fat, processed high glycaemic load foods thinking –“yeh good old grains”. They lost their appetite for the real flavours of natural whole foods like lots vegetables and salads, fruit, nuts and protein foods and, bingo we have a problem.
Last century saw a move too far away from natural food and it continues. With busy lives it is easy too succumb to convenience and lose the art of healthy food preparation. Many people have become conditioned to prefer highly processed fatty sugary foods lacking vital nutrients and with synthetic chemical additives. Children have become prime targets for this through media marketing. Their diets end up very low in foods containing real nutrients that create a good foundation for health. As a Naturopath, I see kids with despairing parents who cannot even get their kids to try fruits and vegies, or any healthy whole food. The kids often have weight issues, behavioural disorders and learning difficulties. They can be suffering malnutrition and food additive onslaught that is affecting their precious future health right now.
Let’s recognise that the problem exists. Toxic influences from junk foods affect both the bodies and minds of our precious young ones. Let’s do something – here is a plan for reforming your kids, getting them to love healthy food and giving them a better start.
Keep offering foods that were initially refused. Prepare and serve them in different ways without comment – it may take months but often works.
- If you believe your child to be terminally difficult about food they will probably fulfil your negative prophecy. Stay calm, patient and trust.
- Be the change you want to see in your kids. Demonstrate that it’s normal to enjoy a wide variety of foods, and talk to kids about foods you came to enjoy that you once didn’t like.
- Do not bring unhealthy foods into the house Kids aren’t the ones buying Coke, coco-pops, pizza shapes and white bread. Adults buy food for kids until they’re older and even then you can influence their breakfast and dinner.
- Involve your children in menu planning, shopping for food and meal preparation, even better let them grow some food. I can hear you saying, “hang on a minute, its impossible to shop for healthy foods with kids in your ear!”, but kids who participate in all aspects of preparing meals are far more likely to sample the finished product. Kids often baulk at the foods parents want them to eat as a way of asserting control. Involving them helps to relieve any sense of powerlessness over food choices. It also sets up a lifetime family social activity that will pay great dividends in the future – you may even get lucky enough to have a teenage cook who prepares lovely meals once or twice a week when you’re busy.
- Talk to your kids constantly about your food choices and how and why you make them, explain the benefits of each food you buy. Tell them nicely how unhealthy foods affect people – they will listen when sensible informed information is shared.
- Make meal times fun – a common mistake is well meaning parents turning meal times into a huge drag by lecturing their children about what they “should” eat and what will happen if they don’t. You know, if you harangue kids they will tune out – so don’t.
- Never, ever reward kids with food. Never threaten, punish, bribe or reward them to get them to eat the foods that you desire. Reward foods are almost invariably unhealthy and they can set a pattern for lifelong battles with eating disorders. Rewards and punishments psychologically undermine a child’s intrinsic motivation to eat healthy foods. Manipulating your child through bribes or punishments sends him/her the message that manipulation is OK, an acceptable strategy for getting what you want. Don’t be surprised if there is an attempt to manipulate you straight back!
Good luck with this important task parents and remember it often pays to have them hear the truth (if it’s correct) from an external source.
“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind”
– Caroline Myss