Yesterday I overheard this conversation between a mum and a gorgeous, possibly 5-year-old, girl!
It went like this: “you mustn’t eat junk or you will not grow tall !” Without batting an eyelid the little girl turned around and replied “but mum you are not tall!”
Kids sometimes can have such comebacks! It’s interesting that when it comes to getting our kids to eat, and to eat what we think is right, we often not only judge food, but also imply that something is to be gained from eating particular types of food.
My generation grew up being told that eating spinach would make us as strong as Popeye! Well… I don’t know anyone who, as a child, bought that! If you remember what you were told and how it worked, let me know, I’d love to hear from you!
Research actually shows that linking any type of food with achievements such as being healthy, tall, or smart not only does not work, it actually makes the food in question less attractive! Worse it increases your child’s food preferences –obviously, for other foods, that may not be to your liking–! Now the kids get it: it mustn’t be that good if mum or dad has to to promote it that badly!
Besides, it can trigger some pressure and anxiety, here a child gets the message that their parent is not happy with their eating, there a child is confused as to why one should eat to please their parents. Not only is the food still unattractive but now it is peppered with a number of uneasy feelings. From now on everyone’s getting anxious and the spinach is not moving off the plate!
What can you do to avoid falling into this trap?
- Serve the food you wish to serve and avoid qualifying it, it does not have magical powers and kids this young cannot understand a healthy nutrition course.
- Consider that food presentation, taste and textures are what matters, if you grew up on meat-and-3-veg, you get that! Often it is just characterised by the 3b’s : boring, bland and basic.
- And finally, do not praise your child for eating or criticize them for refusing a particular food.
You are on your way to avoid building up preferences, anxiety, and guilt. A healthy relationship with eating! Sounds great doesn’t it?
For more info or if you have a question or comment get in touch.
Good luck with it all and with your gorgeous kids!