Never before has a nation known so much about nutrition yet eaten so poorly. You know the statistics: 30% of our children are overweight. But did you know:
· 1/3 of 19th month olds eat no fruit on any given day but 90% consume some type of dessert, candy or sugary drink.
· 80% of toddlers eat vegetables every day, but French fries are the ones they’re most likely to eat.
· 60% of 2-3 year olds have diets considered in need of improvement.
How has this happened? No one deliberately sets out to raise children with poor eating habits. Parents don’t wake up one morning and say, “Right, it’s time to start giving Johnny more junk.” And everyone knows that cookies aren’t carrots and eating apple pie isn’t the same as eating an apple. So how do most of us end up giving our kids a lot of junk? OK, maybe it’s not junk exactly—not McDonald’s or potato chips or Twinkies—but way too much food we think of as “kid-friendly”: bagels, mac n’ cheese, pizza, chicken nuggets, chocolate milk, and “healthy” delicacies such as fruit chews.
I’ve been studying this problem for the better part of a decade and I have reached a radical, counter-intuitive answer: our children eat poorly because of our national obsession with nutrition.
I know it’s hard to believe that the science of nourishing our bodies could have led to such a disastrous result, but let me explain. Most parents are trapped by two conflicting beliefs: 1. That it’s their job to get nutrients into their children and 2. That it’s unfair to expect children to like healthy food. When you believe these two messages, your behavior and choices are limited. You’re boxed into the intersection between foods with acceptable nutritional value and foods your kids are willing to eat. That’s a bad place to be because it leads to low nutritional standards, little variety, battles for control, emotional eating. These bad habits start early in childhood and follow kids throughout their lives. They’re habits that are very difficult to break.
There’s an easy way out of this jam. All you have to do is to move your focus away from nutrition and onto habits. Stop thinking about the nutritional content of food—because let’s face it, an argument can be made to justify almost every food choice, even Twinkies have some calcium—and start paying attention to what you are teaching your children about when, why and how much to eat.
This simple mind shift from nutrition to habits works. I’ve seen the success stories, and I’m going to share the techniques that will help you succeed. In coming blogs I’ll talk about how to:
· Use taste and texture to teach kids to eat a wide variety of foods.
· Avoid the 3 most common ways parents inadvertently teach bad habits.
· Teach children how to try new foods
· Eliminate the struggle
Not only can you feed your kids nutritiously, but you can teach them to eat right forever. All you have to do is realize: it’s not about nutrition.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~
Dina R. Rose, has a PhD in sociology from Duke University. She has over 15 years experience in teaching and research. Just as importantly, she is also a mother. Dina has been studying how parents teach their children to eat since her daughter was little and she offers lectures, workshops and individual coaching on this topic. She is also the author of the popular blog It’s Not About Nutrition.com
Published On: May 18, 2011