Friday, August 25, 2023

How to talk to your child about nutrition

Better nutrition can improve your immune system, lower the risk of diseases like diabetes and lead to a longer life. So, how do you talk to your child about something so important? Read on to discover 5 tips for how to talk to your child about food and nutrition to help your whole family lead a healthy life.

5 top tips for talking to your child about nutrition 

1.       Avoid labelling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Protecting children's health is a subject at the forefront of people's minds at the moment. However, as well as a healthy, balanced diet, a healthy relationship with food and positive body image should be just as important. There are three reasons to avoid the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ labels:

  1. Labelling sugary, fried, or salty foods as ‘bad’ and fruit and veggies as ‘good’ creates a judgemental attitude toward food. 
  2. These labels can lead to anxiety around eating.
  3. Additionally, these labels often cause children to sneak foods they want in secret.

Instead, help them to enjoy food of all types. Create an environment where they are free to explore and enjoy food from every food group so they grow up with a positive relationship with food.

2.       Talk to your child at an age appropriate level. 

A toddler and a teenager are not going to understand food and nutrition at the same level. Being able to have conversations and teach children about nutrition at an age appropriate level is key to the success of the lesson. For example:

Just as parents learn how to burp a baby (need some tips? Click here!) babies need to learn how to eat after exclusively having milk for the first months of their life. A variety of options from the beginning of their weaning journey is a great way to introduce nutrition to your child.

  • Got a toddler? They will love to play with finger foods. From breadsticks to carrot batons, try a variety of options with different tastes and textures for them to get used to.
  • A child needs a more clear-cut routine when it comes to mealtimes and availability of snacks. Designating a specific time of the day or week to allow treats will help children to understand moderation in their diet.
  • Older children and teenagers will benefit from a conversation that revolves more around having a positive relationship with the food they eat and their body image.

3.       Be aware that learning about nutrition isn’t as simple as learning your ABCs and 123s.

The reality is, just because you know something is healthy, doesn’t mean you will automatically like it, or even include it in your diet. Even adults who understand the benefits and drawbacks of certain food types love to indulge in sweet or salty treats. It’s important to be able to teach children that being healthy doesn’t mean cutting out the treats, it means eating a varied diet and having items in moderation. Learning this is a process, and we can’t expect them to pick it up in the same way they would learn the alphabet and numbers.

4.       Make learning fun.

Children learn best through play, so teaching them about nutrition in a fun way is bound to ensure they pay more attention and absorb the information you’re trying to teach them. Here are a few tricks to make food fun:

  1. Get them interacting with food. Try painting with it, making stamps out of it, gluing it together to make a picture and more.
  2. Try to grow your own. Growing your own fruits, veggies, herbs, and more is a great way to involve your children in the production of your food, saving a bit of money and helping them learn lessons such as where food comes from, how food is grown, and more.
  3. Go to a pick-your-own farm. From strawberries in summer to pumpkins in autumn, there are pick-your-own farms where you can go and choose fruits, veggies, flowers, and more. This is a great way to have a fun day out and show your children where their food comes from.
  4. Try some food-related experiments. From soda geysers with Mentos and cola, to how lemon juice and baking soda makes lemonade there are plenty of experiments that are fun – and sometimes a little messy – which can help your child learn and understand nutrition in unique ways including everything from food groups to chemical reactions.

5.       Let them ask questions, and don’t be afraid of not knowing the answer.

Children are inquisitive by nature, and will always ask questions. Allowing your child to ask questions is key to the learning process, but sometimes even a parent doesn’t know all the answers. If you’re not sure how to answer, be honest with them. A parent doesn’t start out knowing everything about caring for their child from how to burp a baby to what sleep patterns are normal. Instead of making a guess, research the answer with your child and show them you are willing to learn with them – because parenthood is a journey of learning just like childhood.

It's as simple as that. By following these five simple tips you can help your child understand nutrition and help them to enjoy a healthy and varied diet. After all, staying fit and healthy as a family is key to enjoying life to the fullest.


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