“There are plenty of obstacles in your path. Don’t allow yourself to become one of them.”
It is never too late to adopt healthy eating patterns. Our eating patterns are established from the moment we are born. The mother and child establish a feeding relationship around food. The feeding relationship is dynamic because it is not only about providing nutrients but about sharing power. These formative years significantly influence your child’s lifelong eating habits. However, it is never too late to alter your eating habits!!!
Let’s look at how our own thoughts, feelings and experiences with food and eating directly influence the way we approach our children about eating. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What is your relationship with food?
- How do you feel about your body?
- What foods have particular meaning in your family or culture?
- What were mealtimes like when you were growing up?
According to a report from the journal of Pediatrics, pressure from parents to have children clean their plates or restrict them from eating high-calorie foods may actually not help teens maintain a healthy weight. We are all guided by the best intentions but restricting what children are allowed to eat or not eat can result in exactly what we are all trying to avoid- unhealthy dietary choices that include a high sugar, high fat and low nutrient dense diet.
The “clean your plate” syndrome may do a disservice to your teenager as it discourages your teenager to learn to listen to their own body signals. Instead, they are taught to eat whatever is in front of them, regardless of how many calories weigh it down and then compensate by overeating other unhealthy foods. Mealtimes should be an opportunity to allow your teenager to learn self-regulation and recognize their bodies’ cues. These cues are essential for developing life long healthy eating habits. This is a time to allow your teenagers to feel safe, secure and loved as opposed to anxious and stressful.
Of course, you don’t want them eating junk food all day just because that is what they want but I highly doubt you will go out and stock up on soda, candy and gum if you are concerned about your child’s eating patterns.
Here are a few suggestions for working with your teenagers:
- Setting a good example can potentially be more effective than restricting what they eat.
- Stock the cabinets and the refrigerator with healthy fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
- Cook together if possible and enjoy the meal together without focusing on how much they are eating and what is left on their plate.
- Be flexible.
- Become knowledgeable about what is healthy and nutrient dense.
- Offer a few healthy options when they are hungry and let them decide which one they would prefer. This is SO empowering for them to establish autonomy which is exactly what they are searching for at this age.
We all live a chaotic schedule day to day between dropping off kids at school and driving them to their various activities so it is so EASY to grab the most convenient snack at the store- chips,donuts, candy etc.. However, we are fortunate that grocery stores now carry pre-cut, pre-washed veggies and offer other healthier choices, such as chips that are made from root vegetables, small packets of tortilla chips, hummus or carrots with hummus and/or grab a pack of almonds, cashews or pistachios.
Hopefully, this will lead to less stressful interactions with your teenager. This may not be successful on the first try or even the second but try not to become discouraged as it is a process that takes time. Take a deep breath and choose the path you would like to take with your teenager to a healthy and balanced future.