Instilling positive relationships with food in children can reduce the risk of long term health issues including obesity, negative body image and type 2 diabetes.
Here are some tips to help children build positive relationships with food:
- Do not use food as bribes. Instead, use other positive reinforcements such as verbal praise or spending quality family time together (such as going to the park or playing a game) as motivation.
- Allow children to eat according to their hunger cues. This means allowing children to eat until they are full, but not stuffed. Encourage them to listen to their bodies.
- It is better for children to learn about food as “everyday food” and “sometimes food” rather than “good food” and “bad food”.
- Children tend to use parents as role models from a very young age. Having a variety of food available at family meals can help children to enjoy a wide range of food.
- Talk about food as food groups and the nutrients the food provides, rather than talking about the calorie, sugar and/or fat content.
Ultimately, all food can be and should be enjoyed in moderation. The only time you should actively avoid a food is when you have a specific food allergy or food intolerance.
Shu-Lin is a Paediatric Dietitian at Hopscotch & Harmony. She supports the nutritional needs for children, from infancy through adolescence. She understands that management of complex food allergies/food intolerances can often be difficult, and also works with young people who have prior negative feeding experiences, autism, or poor/negative body image.