Here are 2 recent scientific studies about the dangers of overemphasizing weight, body image, and dieting to our children and in particular our daughters.
Now, that is not to say that parents cannot have positive influence on a child’s diet. But we must be thoughtful and a bit clever about it. Here are some suggestions:
- What’s in the house? Well into adolescence, still, most children’s caloric intake and food choices are dictated by the family fridge and pantry. Have healthy snacks and don’t have soda and sport drinks. Even fruit juice should be limited (breakfast only, I think): the whole fruit containing the fiber is much healthier.
- Meal time. Eat dinner together when possible. You can strongly influence what your child eats by meal choices (more whole foods prepared by parents and less processed foods heated from the freezer or poured out of a box). Smaller portions. Engage in conversation during meals and encourage your child to stop eating while talking. Your child can help out at mealtime by serving you a bit (put used dishes in the sink, retrieve condiments from the refrigerator, etc.). I say that if the emphasis is on etiquette and not weight you are safer (better for her to think herself ill mannered rather than unattractive!). So it’s not polite to eat too much and leave nothing for others, not polite to talk with a full mouth, and is polite for him to tend to Mom and Dad, who otherwise work so hard for him, at the dinner table.
- To the extent that every household will have some “fun food” snacks, keep to modest amounts and stress that the child “pace themselves.” Again, etiquette-“don’t be selfish and finish everything yourself leaving nothing for others.” As to complaints that there’s nothing left? My suggested answer–” I don’t have all the time and money to go to the supermarket over and over. I will shop again later in the week. Meanwhile you can make do and next week pace yourself a bit better.”
- It’s not that difficult to get a child to be physically active. Throw the kid outside with other kids (no tablets!) his age and invariably, they will exercise. Another great way is to play with your child yourself:bike rides, walks, even jogging or playing sports if you are physically up to it. You are making you, your child and your emotional bond stronger simultaneously
- Along those lines–always try and be a role model. Be active yourself as above, and endeavor to make healthy food choices for your health’s sake as well as your child’s.
Perfection is unnecessary with these things. Busy parents sometimes have to offer a quick, frozen meal so do what you have to do. Soda at a birthday party is fine, as are modest amounts of cookies, ice cream, or chips at home. An occasional family pizza night is terrific.
As I often summarize: moderation in all things. Send along questions and comments, and thanks for following.