At the DAA conference earlier this year I sat in on a wonderful presentation given by a Dietitian called Tara Diversi. She was such a down to earth dietitian and told her story of her interaction with dietitians in her childhood and being labelled as a “fat kid”. She is an advocate for children’s eating behaviours and for developing a healthy relationship with good food early on in our children’s lives.
I will run through her 5 ways to help children’s eating behaviour, but first, I loved this infographic that she showed from the food brand lab. From this research, the most powerful part that she talked about was that one of the best safeguards against your children becoming overweight as adults is how involved you are with their lives. This is not food related, just being involved in their lives in a meaningful way will help them to be a healthy adult!
Tara talked about 4 ways help with children’s eating behaviour:
- Making healthy food normal
- It is important to draw a line between sometimes foods and treat/occasional food. Make the sometimes food normal in your household. You can be quite direct in telling your kids “that is a sometimes food, not something we eat every day”
- Talk to your kids about healthy foods, and include them daily.
o If your kids complain, let them know that this is everyday food, and the foods we need to eat every day. Don’t make a big deal about it, just state the facts.
- For fussy eaters, it is important to help them overcome their aversion to healthy foods. Making food normal for fussy eaters is about repeated exposure. This means giving them the food on the plate (or on a learning plate or bowl further away from them on the table) so that the look, feel and taste of these foods becomes normal to them. Presenting food like a clock face (ie bits of food around the outside of the plate, not touching, rather than all lumped in the middle) often helps.
2. Make healthy food less risky
- Train your kids tastebuds. It takes a while to change tastebuds so do it in a less risky fashion. If your child likes a certain food, cheese, then add in other foods to this taste gradually. You might have one bland vegetable with cheese grated over the top of it for a while. Once that is accepted, add in another vegetable of the same taste. You can eventually add in stronger flavoured vegetables. She talked about angst free food delivery, so taking the emotions (from both sides) out of the food delivery.
- Tara also talked about some research into using characters like Elmo or super hero’s and how that increased kid’s intake of fruit and vegetables. You can use this to your advantage. Tap into your child’s favourite character and talk to them about the foods that that character eats. “Superman must eat his vegetables because he is big and strong” “I’m sure fairies eat different colours of fruit because their wings sparkle with different colours”. Be creative and have some fun chatting with your young kids. By talking in this way, your kids will see healthy foods as less risky because a character they know and love eats it, so it’s more comfortable to them.
3. Make healthy food convenient
Keep the occasional food out of sight. If your kids can’t see it, generally they forget it is there. Keep the everyday food at your child’s eye level and that is what will be asked for. You also have the ability to portion control the snacks available – ie small bags of sultanas, crackers etc on low shelf in the cupboard. And make it easy for children to help themselves. Put fruit and veggies on a low shelf in the fridge cut up already. Have easy to pour water jugs for bigger kids or drink bottles for smaller children.
4. Make healthy food attractive
I’m not expecting you to make the masterpieces with meals that you see on pinterest. Making healthy food attractive can be as simple as giving vegetables some cool names like “X-ray carrots” or “super peas”.
Some other ways could be:
-Present their food in different bowls, plates or in different ways.
-Kids can be funny with things that look “yucky” so cut brown parts off of fruit and veggies.
-Serve sauces on the side so they can choose to dip their food in them rather than dumping it all on top.
-Use exciting coloured vegetables, my girls went a bit crazy one day when I found purple cauliflower.
So there you go. Hopefully you find some tips and tricks in there that you can use for your little ones!
What tricks do you use to make healthy food choices in your house?
Until next time,
The Dietitian Mummy