Want to nourish your kids? 8 tips to avoid!

By Alana Compton

As a parent you may ask the same question – why is feeding my family so hard? Well, if feeding is hard, maybe you’re making some common feeding mistakes. In my years of private practice, I’ve noticed some common feeding mistakes parents make around the dinner table. I’m sharing them here to help you avoid them.

The right diet and nutrients can make all the difference.

There is a very real link between our stress hormones and our blood sugar, so the right diet can make a really big difference to the way we handle stress. The extra cortisol pumping around our bodies when we under stress, makes our cells more resistant to insulin (the hormone that clears glucose from your blood after a meal and stores it away.) The result is that our blood sugar goes up and so does our insulin levels; in the long term this can give us diabetes. We are also more likely to have headaches, find it difficult to concentrate, and feel generally moody and irritable.

Here’s how to eat yourself calm!

1. You entice with dessert in exchange for eating well (or trying) using food, particularly desserts, to reward children for their eating performance may have a surprising effect. We like to think it helps children develop good eating habits, but research tells us rewarding with sweets in particular, shifts a child’s food value system to favor the sweet treats we offer.

A 2007 review article on the influence of parents on eating behavior in children found that using food as reward increased preschool aged children’s preferences for those foods. Instead: Don’t tie sweets and other tasty foods to what or how much your child eats. Balance sweets everyday and don’t make eating a condition for enjoying them.

2. You encourage your child to eat more “Just take another bite, then you can get down from the table.” With the best of intentions, parents try to get their kids to eat a little bit more. Especially if their toddler won’t eat. What they don’t realise is pushing children to eat more may lead to weight problems.

According to a 2007 study in Appetite, 85% of parents tried to get their preschool children to eat more using words of praise or pressure. Parents were successful, with 83% of children eating more than they might otherwise have. Yes, you guessed it, kids were eating beyond their appetite. Instead: Let your child stop eating when he’s full.

3. You try to control offsite eating. Recently, a mum asked me how to control what and how much her daughter ate at school. According to a 2011 study from Johns Hopkins University, parents have little influence over what their kids eat, especially as they get older. In fact, the outside environment has more sway than parents! Kids tend to want what they cannot have.

Tight control over food in or outside the home may have unwanted effects such as out of control eating or choosing unhealthy items when kids have access to them. Instead: Have a home environment that is balanced with mostly nutritious foods, a little bit of “Fun” food, and let your child be in charge of their eating.

4. You talk too much about nutrition. Some parents do the nutrition education thing too early and too much. Hands-on learning (cooking) is most effective with school-age kids, and answering their questions, as they come up is appropriate. Providing a nutrition lecture on heart disease is not. Save the deep, hard-core nutrition lessons for the older teen (again, when they ask is best).

Remember, many adults still find nutrition confusing. Instead: Provide plenty of options for your child to be hands on in the kitchen and your teen freedom to experiment with food. Answer nutrition questions when they come up.

5. You plate your child’s food. Dishing up food seems like a good idea, you can control what goes on the plate and how much is offered. But, when children receive a plated meal it may open Pandora’s box. “I don’t like this!” “I didn’t want that.” Also, food servings may be too much for your child, leaving her to partially eat what’s on it. In the end, parent and child expectations aren’t met. Instead: Let children serve themselves and have a say about what goes on their plate.

6. You make an alternate meal (or snack). Some parents make back-up meals for their family members. “Catering” to food requests or demands on a regular basis not only encourages picky eating, but kids may miss out on nutritious foods. Instead: Make one meal for the whole family.

7. You allow little tastes a little too early. A sip of mum’s latte, dad’s soda or Grandma’s ice cream - what’s the harm in a little sweet treat for baby or toddler? Infants are born pre-wired to prefer the flavor of sweet and fat. Salt preference emerges around six months. For all three, the more exposure the stronger the preference for these flavors. Instead: Hold off on sweets, fried and salty foods until after age two and then offer them occasionally.

8. You Let Your Child Eat “Whatever”. Because He’s Thin/Fit/Healthy/An AthleteI’m not worried about what he eats because he’s on the skinny side,” or “She’s an athlete, so she can eat whatever she wants—she burns it all off!”

 

Alana is a registered nutritionist with the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT), an accredited therapist with The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) and a master Certified Weight Loss Coach.

Contact her at www.nutrition4you.org.uk / email: alanacompton@nutrition4you.org.uk