Your child does not have to be a picky eater and doesn’t have to have a love/hate relationship with food if you would help lay the foundation for him to develop a good relationship with food. Children who engage in emotional eating and who use food for soothing and comfort will end up becoming obese adults who engage in emotional eating. Children who see food as an enemy are also more likely to grow up to become adults with eating disorders.

But this not need be. You can help to keep food neutral in your home, not as a comfort and not as an enemy and by so doing, help your child forge a healthy relationship with the food that he takes in for sustenance.

Here is how to help him foster that great relationship with food:

It starts with you, so set a good example

You are the very first teacher your child ever gets, and you will be his most influential teacher for most of his childhood. This means that your child will pick up cues from you about food, so it’s very important that you demonstrate a positive relationship with food. Lay a good foundation by eating lots of vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and fresh fruit, just like you want your child to. If you don’t make a mess over eating a head of broccoli and eat it the same way you would a piece of steak, the probability that your child would do the same is very high.

Keep food neutral

Never label any food as good or bad. Explain to them that food is food, but also let them know which foods are nutritional and provide the vitamins and nutrients that their body needs. If you need to differentiate between foods that their bodies need and the ones that they don’t, try the label of “growing foods” and “fun to eat foods”. When you stop labeling food as bad or unhealthy, your child will not grow up associating shame and guilt with liking such foods. We tend to hide when we eat ‘bad’ foods, and no one but us knows exactly how much calories we are packing on from these so-called ‘bad foods’. If your child does not associate any food with being bad, he is less likely to sneak it when you are not watching.

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Don’t make dessert and other fun to eat foods so special that they have to be earned or are restricted. Nutrition experts now advise that parents make it a point of duty to serve growing foods about 80 percent of the time and fun to eat foods 20 percent of the time so that children never feel deprived.

Don’t offer food rewards or use food as a punishment

It is counterproductive to use food as a reward for good behavior. It is also counterproductive to offer food to your child as a treat when they’ve had a bad day. If you continue to do these, your child starts to associate food with their mood and behavior rather than as a vehicle to get rid of hunger. And never use food as a punishment by forcing your child to eat what he doesn’t want to eat or by depriving him of food because he was naughty.

Don’t make your home a place for negative body image talk

Even if you are not happy with your weight or with how you look, quit whining in front of your kids. Stop saying, “I am so fat”, or “I need to go on a diet ASAP with all that chocolate I had over the weekend.” Remember that what you say and how you say it influences your child in more ways than one. It’s been researched and established that children of parents with negative self-body image often wind up having a terrible relationship with food. Don’t go that route.

Involve your kids in the process of cooking

Knowing where your food comes from and getting involved in the cooking of it helps to foster a great relationship with food. Make the list of the foodstuff that you need and go grocery shopping with the kids. Let them help you prep and where it is safe, let them assist in the cooking.

Make a habit of eating at the table

Eating at the table as a family rather than getting into the habit of eating on the go and wherever you are will help to foster a good relationship with food. Most adults are overweight because they don’t practice mindful eating. Don’t let your child get into the habit of eating in front of the TV, eating as he plays a game or while surfing the net. When we don’t practice mindful eating, we almost always overeat.

Don’t get into the habit of telling him to clear his plate

Telling your child to clear his plate does not encourage a positive relationship with food, and often works against healthy eating. Let your child eat according to how hungry he is, and once he is full, let him stop. If you are worried about waste, try small servings rather than large ones and allow your child to take second helpings if he is not full the first time.

Don’t associate certain activities with certain foods

Your child should not associate a visit to the salon with a stopover at KFC for some fried chicken or some lollipop because you always without fail during, before or after that activity get that special treat. If you are already stuck in this habit, break the rut by offering them healthier choices, and letting them know ahead of the activity that the treat will be omitted or saved for another occasion.

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Create a structure

Kids thrive on structure, so don’t make mealtimes and snack times arbitrary. Have a meal structure that you follow, even if the challenges of everyday life make you throw this structure out every once in a while. But do begin with structure. What do you guys do for breakfast? When do you eat lunch? How do your dinner times go? And how many snacks and in what quantity are allowed in between meals.

In conclusion

The habits you help your child develop today will go a long way into determining whether he has an easier life as an adult or not, and the decision on what to eat and in what quantities is about the most important decision any of us can ever make. You can give your child a great foundation by helping him appreciate food for what it is; food, not a reward, not a punishment, but simply nourishment for hunger.


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