The messages and beliefs we have about food get infused into our children. Just as our kids often mirror how we do life, they also mirror how we do food.
Lately, I have been really noticing the messages my 5 year old daughter has been sharing about food. As she was eating a grapefruit she said, “grapefruits are so sweet this season.” I had made water infused with lemon, lime, strawberries and mint and she said, “pretty! Can I have some?” She had an omelet with zucchini and tomatoes and topped with pea shoots and she said, “look how colorful my plate is!” She often asks to go shopping at the Farmer’s market and health food stores and although she loves ice cream and cookies she often asks for fresh squeezed orange juice, roasted chickpeas, natural turkey jerky or seaweed for treats when we are out.
My 2 year old has been sitting on the counter watching us cook since he was 6 months old. He is always eager to help in the kitchen. He loves to crack the eggs, scramble eggs and stir whatever is cooking in the pots. He seasons and tosses our potatoes and he is a pro at helping me make a perfect cup of green tea. Both of my kids love to bake, help measure and pour ingredients. Just standing on a chair or sitting on the counter while my husband and I cook has become a great place for learning, teaching and connecting with great conversation. It makes me so happy that my children share the same love of food as my husband and I do.
Our messages and thoughts that we have about food are important to be aware of as they can become the beliefs our children hold. Here are some important questions to consider:
- What do you say about food around your kids?
- If you are a picky eater, are your kids picky too?
- If you never try new foods and tastes, do your kids?
- If you are disconnected to food, how do your kids feel about it?
- If you sneak junk food, do your kids mirror that?
- Do you often say, "this is so bad for me (or you) you shouldn't eat it?"
- Do you restrict what you eat? Do you restrict what your kids eat?
- If you worry about calories and fat grams, have you ever heard your child speak that way about food?
- Do you prevent your kids from cooking or shopping with you to avoid messes and inconveniences?
Connecting with our kids and teaching them about healthy food, colorful food and food that makes them feel great is so important. Talking to them about the foods that give them energy for school, dance, sports and all the things they love to do will help them to make conscious choices. Encouraging them when they try new foods and teaching them to listen to their bodies so that understand how food makes them feel offers them wisdom that they can use for a lifetime. Asking them what they feel like eating vs. assuming what they would want to eat is also an important distinction. Letting them choose foods in the grocery store that look appealing to them and teaching them where food comes from, and how to appreciate good food is vital. Connecting around the kitchen table or counter and celebrating the joy and pleasure of preparing food and eating together is a beautiful practice.
The messages we teach our kids about food are as important as any other life lesson. Let’s guide them and inspire them to be food lovers, to care about what they put into their bodies. Let’s teach them to celebrate food, respect food and love food.
Yours in Health,