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How to foster good eating habits in your children?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
I guess the title says it all. I"m not really looking for specifics for my own 6 month old, but just general advice.

I grew up in a family where we would devour any junk in minutes (my parents would literally lock away and hide food from us).

I know (very close to) a family where the mom keeps a candy dish out at all times. I, at nearly 30, cannot resist sneaking a chocolate from that bowl, but the I've heard kids in that house turning down treats and junk as a matter of course.

Is it just genetic? Or can it be taught?
post #2 of 24
I think it can be taught-or more importantly modeled. I enjoy food and I want my son to enjoy it as well.

Food should be fun. It should taste good, it should be varied, and sometimes it can even be bad for you.

Food should be pleasurable. I am not going to eat a restricted diet and I am not going to encourage my son to do so.

What I am going to encourage is eating REAL food. We eat cake and cookies I make from scratch using real butter and eggs and cream and milk. I am not the least bit interested in making that kind of stuff low calorie. It is a cake-it shouldn't BE low calorie. However, my son will see us eating one piece of cake, not two or three.

We get our bread from a local bakery. Our cheese is made in state, and our milk comes from a coop. So do our vegetables in the summer-those that we don't grow ourselves. My son will learn to garden and learn how enjoyable it is to know that you helped grow that yummy tomato and doesn't it taste awesome in our pasta sauce?? And isn't it great to have fresh made pasta with only three ingredients?

My son will never ever see any type of diet food in our home. I think that crap is appalling and does us no good at all.

But mostly my son will see us enjoying food we make ourselves from ingredients we can pronounce. He will learn proper serving sizes and that having seconds is ok sometimes.
post #3 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by betsyj View Post
I think it can be taught-or more importantly modeled. I enjoy food and I want my son to enjoy it as well.

Food should be fun. It should taste good, it should be varied, and sometimes it can even be bad for you.

Food should be pleasurable. I am not going to eat a restricted diet and I am not going to encourage my son to do so.

What I am going to encourage is eating REAL food. We eat cake and cookies I make from scratch using real butter and eggs and cream and milk. I am not the least bit interested in making that kind of stuff low calorie. It is a cake-it shouldn't BE low calorie. However, my son will see us eating one piece of cake, not two or three.

We get our bread from a local bakery. Our cheese is made in state, and our milk comes from a coop. So do our vegetables in the summer-those that we don't grow ourselves. My son will learn to garden and learn how enjoyable it is to know that you helped grow that yummy tomato and doesn't it taste awesome in our pasta sauce?? And isn't it great to have fresh made pasta with only three ingredients?

My son will never ever see any type of diet food in our home. I think that crap is appalling and does us no good at all.

But mostly my son will see us enjoying food we make ourselves from ingredients we can pronounce. He will learn proper serving sizes and that having seconds is ok sometimes.
That's us exactly.

My kids help cook, they help in the garden and with the cows (and sometimes pigs). They know where their food came from and they know alot about nutrition.

We enjoy food. Alot. I want them to know about food and how great it is.
post #4 of 24
I'm pretty much with betsyj.

My one killer tip is that when we got a home-delivery share in a local farm, every week was like getting a stocking - we'd open the bin and get all happy about the garlic scapes being so crazy or look at the parsnips.

My son kind of absorbed that vegetables are cool from that experience.

(They are.)

We mildly limit things "Oh, you've had two sweet things today. Let's go for a banana for after dinner." But we're pretty low-key about the control. I grew up in a very controlled household and there are a lot of weight struggles in my family.
post #5 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post
I'm pretty much with betsyj.

My one killer tip is that when we got a home-delivery share in a local farm, every week was like getting a stocking - we'd open the bin and get all happy about the garlic scapes being so crazy or look at the parsnips.

My son kind of absorbed that vegetables are cool from that experience.

(They are.)
Oh, yeah - i was getting organic delivery for a while, and my kids were SO excited when the bin came. It was awesome to see kids light up over broccoli and beans, yk? And, it smelled sooooo good when I popped the lid on the bin.

Quote:
We mildly limit things "Oh, you've had two sweet things today. Let's go for a banana for after dinner." But we're pretty low-key about the control. I grew up in a very controlled household and there are a lot of weight struggles in my family.
We don't limit much, but I do steer a bit in situations like that. Usually, if my kid is really determined to have another piece of fruit, I'll say "sure" - but I do suggest alternatives (yogurt, cheese, nuts, whatever) if they've been eating a lot of the same type of food all day.
post #6 of 24
The thing that strikes me as the most important bit is to not make food the 'problem'. My daughter is exposed to tons of veggies and fruits. She has eaten more fruits and vegetable varietals in her less than two years of life than I ate in my first 25 years. It's kind of crazy. She is allowed to eat what she wants within very mild parameters. If she asks for ice cream as part of lunch, sure why not. She doesn't get to have sugar (including fruit) after about 7 pm because then she has trouble sleeping. We don't have HFCS stuff in the house and I avoid food dyes where possible. If someone asks to give her a sip of their soda when we are out I don't care. She can't have a whole soda, but having a sip every now and then isn't a big deal.

So far she eats almost anything you put in front of her (she doesn't like bell peppers or most meat) and she can take a couple of bites of cake and be done. I don't worry about limiting calories I worry about encouraging exercise. She RUNS all day and she is encouraged to be physically active as much as humanly possible. She doesn't ever ride in a stroller and she started refusing to be worn at about 15 months. So far so good. We'll see how this continues as she ages.
post #7 of 24
it starts from babyhood so you ARE asking at the right time and not trying to change any habits. and YOU start the precedence by eating healthy yourself.

dd was offered what we ate. i didnt eat most junk and neither did we do pizza, fish sticks, or fast foods. she never had those till she was what 2 or 3.

my dd is a good eater. till two she was mostly exclusively bf. she did eat solid foods, but teenie tiny amounts. about two baby jars a day.

i offered her licks from when she was 3 months old. she seemed v. curious about taste and i didnt know how else to get that need met.

i offered food at 6 months. she showed all teh signs fo readiness but she didnt want to eat. she didnt start solid foods till almost 9 months. by then she didnt really need mashed up food so she mainly ate what we ate without spices. so for instance her first food was avacado and then rice, lentils and avacado. peas, bananas, carrots, etc. and she slowly eased into eating what we were eating - spices and all. i went out to eat and she ate with us. we introduced her to other foods at around 18 months old and sushi was her favourite.

today the result is she has never been able to eat off any children's menu. she prefers adult food.

however i think food is partly genetic and partly environment, as usual. she is a good eater because that is who she is. she was never into one kind of food ever. she never for instance wanted rice and rice alone.

also we dont do strictly bfast, lunch, dinner foods. sometimes we eat dinner for bfast and vice versa.

we slowly started introducing junk. by 3 she was a candy junk. i never brought anything home. however i gave her bag of skittles and told her to be careful about eating it as it was a lot of sugar. i shared with her so she wouldnt eat it all. she got little bits of sugary stuff - however i didnt regulate it. if she wanted the whole thing then she could. this was what 4 - 5. she got a tummy ache once and that was it.

from about 5 i think she got it and started putting more thought to healthy eating. was it a good decision to eat that. she would see how much of that stuff she had eaten in teh day and then decide.

i think the two contributing factors were - 1. she was never offered what i didnt want her to have. 2. genetics. and 3. most important - i never made a big deal. healthy or unhealthy. took small sizes of everything. even junk.

for easter for the first time ever (she is 7) the easter bunny got her lucky charms cereal. she was in heaven. she ate it for bfast the one day and hasnt really touched the bag ever since. i think a lot of her 'wanting' is in teh head. just having it. not eating the whole thing. she is back to her oatmeal and honey nut.
post #8 of 24
https://ellynsatter.com/showArticle....99&section=397

Have you seen Ellyn Satter's work? You might want to check it out. We have taken a lot of inspiration from it, in crafting our own way of handling food and eating with the kids.
post #9 of 24
Quote:
it starts from babyhood
Actually... it starts from, like, twelve weeks gestation. Babies suck and swallow amniotic fluid, which can be flavoured with flavours from the mother's last meal. I was reading up on this recently - it's very interesting! They did studies and found that babies whose mothers regularly drank carrot juice expressed fewer negative facial reactions when they were fed carrot at six months. And there have been heaps of studies on rats showing similar things.

Flavours are also passed on through the breastmilk, and again, babies tend to prefer a food they've tasted in mother's milk.

So (although it's a bit too late for some of us!), if you happen to be gestating and/or breastfeeding, you can kind of "cheat" them into preferring healthy food.

The depressing bit of that research is that babies can also develop a taste for junk food and alcohol in the womb. But it doesn't seem to start until after 12 weeks, which is a great relief to someone like me who spent her first trimester eating lovely, baby-building foods like Ramen.
post #10 of 24
Eat exactly the way you want them to eat.
post #11 of 24
I read an article once that said that kids tend to stop being interested in eating unfamiliar things around the age of 2 or 3. The writer said that the reason is biological, handed down from our hunter-gatherer days. Back then, it was around the age of 2-3 that children would begin foraging for themselves, and if they tried to eat anything unfamiliar, it could very well be poisonous. So I guess the point is that if you make sure they are exposed to all the good things you want them to eat before they are two, they will continue those good eating habits afterward. I don't really know if any of this is true, but it makes sense to me.
post #12 of 24
I know my oldest has started to be more 'picky' about food at home since he started school and eats their food (chicken nuggets, hot dogs, pizza, and the like--*occasionally* they have something like actual piece of barbecued chicken or tacos, which I don't consider horrible)

and my dd started to say she didn't like some things after she heard him...

But I still keep offering and we still do family meals with things they don't like on the table. Sometimes DS1 will surprise me and eat tons of salad or something.

The baby is 17 months and he actually PREFERS our home-cooked leftovers to stuff like 'pizza' even though he can say the word, so far.

I've gotten progressively "crunchier" about my intros to food and progressively more lax on my junk.

For example--DS1 had jars of commercial baby food from about 5.5-6 months till around 8 months, *then* I really got him more toward table food. He had "meals" and I would feed him solids at "mealtimes" But I had an absolute *fit* about anyone giving him a candy, cookie, bite of ice cream, etc etc etc.

DD---had 'real' oatmeal and mashed table foods instead of jars, at 6 months and beyond. But I'd just nurse and not do solids if she was asleep at lunchtime or whatever. She didn't eat 3 meals a day till close to 18 mos and I was pregnant and almost milk-less. I still crabbed about 'treats' but once she seemed to REALLY WANT HERSELF what DS1 had, I decided it really wasn't worth fighting.

DS2---had chunks of foods like banana on tray to feed himself. At more like 6.5-7 months. And it was purely experimental. I remember him being about 7 months old on a road trip and I skipped solids for a couple days, exclusive nursing except for a teething cookie in the car till I could get to a place to stop. He was fed entirely what we were eating, made manageable for him to pick up.

All 3 of my children's first favorite meal, or one of the top ones anyway was DH's Okra stew--it's an African thing with okra, tomato paste and really soft cooked beef or lamb. They LOVED it. I thought he was crazy at first but...they loved it! (at like 8-9 or so months)

I guess the main thing I would say is don't ever be afraid to let them try something and don't have any preconceptions about what kids do/don't like. My DD who usually says things are 'too hot' and won't try them, asked for, and USED 4 small helpings of hot sauce as a dip the other day
post #13 of 24
I'm lucky that DS is not picky at all either. He's 19 months and eats just about everything. Loves his fruit and veggies. Yesterday, I got home late and DH had given him chicken and I asked DS if he wanted his veggies. He nodded yes and then as soon as I gave it to him he was double fisting and had 4 helpings. Squash is one of his favorite veggies.
He eats foods that most toddlers don't. He ate up the Thai curries at the local restaurant. He had some homeade paella with shrimp and empenadas at a friend's house. He loves avocado, bananas and blueberries. I'm not a picky eater either and I'm glad that DH's very pickiness hasn't influenced DS yet.
I skipped purees and waited until he could feed himself around 7 months and just gave him whatever we were having or I would just make a side of veggies for him to munch on.
post #14 of 24
This is a huge concern of mine. I grew up in a very unhealthy food environment. Tons of junk and processed food. Binging on junk food was a normal thing. I think we ate out more than we ate at home and my mom never ever cooked - like really cooked, not just opened a box and added water. My entire family is overweight.

When I was about 12 I lost weight and got into nutrition. I'm the only one without weight related health issues.

So with DS I really wanted to break the cycle and do it right. First because of my food sensitivities and DH's allergies we introduced solids slowly according to the allergen scale. He didn't have any wheat products until....18 or 24 months, can't remember. But we did introduce a ton of foods to him. Some he liked, some he didn't.

Now he's 3.5. He gets snacks. He has a snack cabinet with healthy stuff (and a package of cookies and a thing of single serve skittles) that he can pick stuff from during the day. We generally eat healthy, REAL food. We cook dinner, we eat fruits and veggies, we also have candy and bake. But since stuff is always available DS will have a few bites and be done. No food is a big deal because nothing is off limits.

We do talk about healthy stuff vs treats. He knows he can have candy only once a day. If he had some after lunch and he asks for some after dinner we tell him no - that he already had some today and that's enough. Same thing with going out to eat. This child loves restaurants but we limit it to about once a week. We talk about doing that for health reasons and cost. He seems ok with that.

He doesn't like everything. Hates milk, doesn't like spinach very much - but he'll eat sushi and calamari. But then again, I have stuff I don't like so we don't worry about it.

He knows mommy and daddy go to the gym to exercise to stay healthy. He plays to stay healthy.

I think balance, not having things that are off limits and discussing why we don't eat a ton of certain things are key. I think involving them in cooking is important too so they see how food is prepared and where it comes from.

ETA: I should add that we didn't do baby food either except a couple of times for quick convenience. We just gave him our food in small bites.
post #15 of 24
Poverty was my friend. I was a single mama on state benefits when DD was littler and i simply couldn't afford jars of shop-bought baby food, nor much junk foods, nor many of the other "treats" she is now exposed to! I cooked from scratch through necessity.

From whenever she began solids (5.5months or so - not the 6months recommended but by then i was already supplementing with formula so i didn't feel there was much sanctity in her "milk-only" diet) she got what i had, mashed up. I think a friend bought me a mooli to help with the meat (it's hard to mash meat!). Some of it she loved and some she didn't. I gave her exactly what i was having, i just stopped adding salt when cooking, but all the other spices stayed in, i can remember a mum asking me what she'd had for lunch (there was a little bit on her top which i'd failed to change due to being in a rush to get to mum+baby group) and nearly died when i said "fish curry and peas".

She's 4 now. Her favourite place to eat out is a sushi joint, and for her birthday dinner she requested i make her thai green curry ("with extra prawns mama!"). She LOVES sugar and requests candy/cake etc. often, but then i love that stuff too so she sees us eating it! For me variety is the key. She also came running with me in the babyjogger until i stopped due to pregnancy and she still walks miles and miles with me (literally, she has walked 3 miles straight before, which i think is pretty rockin' for a kid who turned 4 this month!).

For me health comes from variety of food and exercise. I don't want her to fall into thinking diet foods will prevent weight gain or that all weight gain means you are a bad person. My mother had a really messed up attitude to food and body-image, which my sister, morbidly obese for most of her life, has borne the brunt of. Her attitude was that fat=bad/undisciplined/out-of-control, and food was something to be strictly regulated to control weight. She liked food but denied herself the things she liked most and made it into an internalised "i'm good/bad today because i did/didn't eat X" game which is highly contagious, and in my sister's case led to a spiral of dieting/binging/comfort-eating/dieting which her metabolism will never recover from now. And the worst thing is that even though my mother is dead my sister STILL believes she has to be thin to be a good enough person. I really don't want that for my DD. I want her to know that people come in all shapes and sizes, and that what a body can DO should be celebrated way over how it looks. My proudest body moment, when i loved my body best, was when i was running 30k/week and doing one weights class/week and i felt STRONG, i couldn't tell you what size i was or what i weighed, those things were circumstantial. It's taken me nearly 30 years to have that relationship with my body and i don't want DD to have to wait that long.
post #16 of 24
Thanks for this thread; I'm finding it very inspiring! My daughter is 17 months, and so far she's a good healthy eater - and we want to keep it that way!
post #17 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alyantavid View Post
That's us exactly.

My kids help cook, they help in the garden and with the cows (and sometimes pigs). They know where their food came from and they know alot about nutrition.

We enjoy food. Alot. I want them to know about food and how great it is.
Yes to this for us as well!

We love food and believe that food should be FOOD- not synthetic science project creations which is what I feel most "food" is nowadays.

So we cook from scratch, we talk about growing practices-good and bad, we grow a lot of our own food, and the rest we get from farms. Our son knows that cows eat GRASS, that chickens live OUTSIDE and eat BUGS, or that soup is something we make from lots of veggies, not pour from a can. etc.

I think the more you know about how food is grown or raised, the better choices you will naturally make.
post #18 of 24
I've been thinking some more.

Model good eating habits. I have trouble with this one, because I'm addicted to sugar, and have some major emotional "stuff" wound up in candy and other sweet junk food. But, I try. My kids see me eating veggie sautes, and snacking on raw fruits and veggies and things like that a lot.

Don't keep unhealthy stuff in the house on a routine basis. My bff and I were talking about this a few months ago. We grew up in the 70s and early 80s (both born in '68). Back then, we didn't know anybody who kept pop/soda in the house as a staple. People just didn't do it. If pop was in the house, it was because there was a party, or it was Christmas, or occasionally, someone had ordered it with pizza or something. It just wasn't a staple. We're both kind of blown away by how many people just keep it in the house these days. (This includes my dh, unfortunately. He has one can a day, but he keeps the pack in the house.)

Trust your child's appetite. This can carry a few small boobytraps - if your child has sensitivities, they may crave things they don't really like, and sometimes, people do become addicted to sugar. But, in general, children's bodies are telling them what they need to eat. As I said above, I might offer some suggestions. If ds2 has had a lot of carbs already and comes asking for a slice of bread or a banana or something, I'll usually say something like, "how about I cut you some cheese, or would you like some almonds?". I'd say about 75% of the time, he jumps on the alternative I offer. If he doesn't, I figure his body does want more carbs. As long as it's a healthy option (usually fruit), he can have them.

Provide a bit of variety, and let them choose.

Keep offering. DD1 is the pickiest eater of my bunch. But, sometimes she surprises us. DH and I got Thai food home delivered for Valentines a couple of years ago, and dd1 loved the chicken satay and one of the sides. That's the kind of thing that she usually won't touch. She usually doesn't like chicken, and refused roast chicken for about 3 years. It recently became her favourite meat. We just keep offering. We tend to require her to have a bit of everything on her plate - just a spoonful. She does not have to eat it, but we feel that giving it to her, and having it in front of her, makes it less "weird".

Biggest one of all. Don't make food a big fight. I made that mistake a few times with ds1. When he was little, he ate almost everything (still does, actually) and loved every veggie I gave him. For some reason, I felt it necessary to get into a stupid power struggle with him over his broccoli once. I have no idea if it's related, and it wasn't an immediate connection - but he didn't eat broccoli for almost 10 years (has just recently started again). I don't care if they eat their veggies at any particular meal. I want them want to eat veggies, in general, yk?
post #19 of 24
Thread Starter 
All of this advice is great. I love how some of it is detailed, and some of it is more just lifestyle choices.

And some of it is just blunt:
Quote:
Originally Posted by crowcaw View Post
Eat exactly the way you want them to eat.

!

Food is a struggle for me, and will probably always be a struggle. I really don't want to pass that along to my children. I can't eat the way that I want them to eat.

I'm not so worried about obesity specifically, but I would like to take some of the emotion out of the food. I guess, I really need to think about what I want to teach him.
post #20 of 24
Another thing-- don't panic, when your child hits toddlerhood, and maybe suddenly seems uninterested in eating. Don't assume that because a food is rejected for awhile, that the child doesn't like it, and certainly don't start only offering favorites, in an effort to "get her to eat."

As kids approach 18 months or 2, sometimes sooner and sometimes a bit later, their growth slows down markedly. This is normal and expected. And their appetites fall back accordingly-- as active as they are, they really don't need all that many calories at that age. If they ate as much as they ate when they were babies, we'd have these giant kids! They will eat just as much as they need, if you offer a good variety of healthy foods, restrict access to addictive junky carbs, and otherwise just leave them be.

I've heard so many people say that one day their kid just stopped eating anything but XYZ (hot dogs, for instance, or white-flour crackers) and they were worried that the child wasn't eating, and was going to stop growing, or starve, so they just kept offering XYZ, and soon the kid (SURPRISE!) would ONLY eat XYZ.

Trust that 2 year olds the world over graze and pick. It's normal and natural and not a sign that you're doing anything wrong. Kids who eat three hearty meals a day are RARE at that age. Just as healthy, cognitively normal kids will not starve themselves, if given access to good food.
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