By JoAnne Romanelli, CHHC, AADP
Board Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach
“Finish everything on the plate”.
“If you don’t eat, I’ll be mad at you”.
In our culture, as in many, food equals love…and love equals food. As well-meaning parents, we want nothing but the best for our children. We nurture our children with love, affection and, of course, food. But mealtimes can be a challenge when dealing with children who won’t finish their meals, who are picky eaters, and who demand junk food. How do we ensure our children are getting the nourishment they need while setting them up for a lifetime of healthy eating? First we need to honor their hunger.
We are all born with instincts. If you immerse a newborn baby in water they would instinctually hold their breath. Eating, like breathing, is one of our most basic instincts. When a newborn is hungry, he cries. When he is full, he turns his head away from his caregiver. Those around him including parents, teachers, grandparents and doctors, begin influencing what, when and how much he needs to eat. His basic eating instinct eventually becomes a learned behavior. The hunger and satiety signals that were so keen when he was a baby is now lost as he is taught he must finish his meal, at a specific time, despite feeling full or not liking a specific food. This is a very confusing behavior as it goes against what our bodies naturally needs. It can lead to a lifetime of emotional and binge eating, yo-yo dieting, food cravings and obesity.
A key step to teaching your children healthy eating patterns is honoring their hunger signals. Allow your children to lead you, just as they did when they were babies. If he says he’s full, believe him. Keep in mind that a child’s stomach is extremely small compared to an adult so always serve smaller portions. If you give them an adult serving size, how can you expect him to finish it? Serve small plates and if he wants more, great. But when he says he’s full, believe him. This small action will give your children the greatest advantage in health because it allows them to stay connected to their own body’s signals. Something a lot of us as adults have lost.
In Part Two of this series, we’ll talk about how to deal with picky eaters and those who crave junk food. Stay tuned.
JoAnne Romanelli, Getting Real Health, and Nicole Zaybak Drepaniotis and the AFRP are not acting in the capacity of a doctor, licensed dietician-nutritionist, psychologist, other licensed or registered professional, personal trainer or any other certified exercise specialist/health exercise adviser. Our purpose is advising and recommendations.
The information received should not be seen as medical or nursing advice and is certainly not meant to take the place of your seeing licensed health professionals.
The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.