Being parents and working in the fitness & nutrition world we know firsthand just how impressionable children are.
We often have clients whose issues with nutrition stem from a very young age. A few old messages they grew up with are so embedded in them that it takes months or years of hard work and patience to overcome them.
If you are reading this, you might be nodding right now thinking of everything you grew up believing.
So let’s have a look at a few things to be mindful of when dieting around childrenDon’t talk negatively about your weight, body and shape.
Even though you’d be talking about your own weight and never about your child, these comments will make them question their own weight, body and shape. In the long run, this can be detrimental and badly effect your kids’ confidence.
Children are the best intuitive eaters: if you trust them. It’s your responsibilty to feed them well and teach them what a healthy plate looks like. Put a slice of cake in front of a child that’s full: they won’t even look at it. Can you say the same about yourself? Losing your ability to honour your hunger and satiety is likely to have contributed to you being in the position of wanting to diet.
While your kids will probably benefit from including higher calorie foods in their diet, you could use a little caution so you can still eat the same meal. Cook the same meals for the family and just alter portion suzes and sides for you. You can always add extra cheese, seeds and nuts to theirs if you feel like they need the extra calories.
Children are like sponges, they don’t learn from our words but absorb everything they see us doing. They have very high energy requirements which means that they need to eat often. We don’t want them trying intermittent fasting just because we did that!
Avoid labelling foods as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. As we said, kids are intuitive eaters. While they do enjoy those foods that don’t align very well with dieting (cakes, sweets & processed foods…), try not to demonise them. Kids are kids, and the more you tell them they can’t have something, the more they’ll want it. If they want some cake, let them have it. Extra tip: try offering dessert (fruit, yogurt, cake…) with their meals. The first few times they’re likely to go to town with the dessert and ask for seconds and third servings. As soon as they understand that their dessert is unconditional and will be offered no matter what (none of the “finish your veggies if you want your dessert!” business), they’ll start having more of their meals and just enough dessert to make them feel satisfied.
Kids don’t know enough about calories, macro- and micronutrients and everything that comes with this. Don’t talk about calories as something negative. Calories are just a unit of measuring energy. Empower them from a young age to help them make the best decisions for themselves. This will save them from dangerous fad diets and products that could be harmful in the long run.
Tell them how much you love yourself and your body. But also that your body is now a little bit bigger than you feel comfortable with. You want it to be a little bit smaller so that you can move better and play with them with ease! To do this, you need to eat a little bit less than usual.