I am not a dietician or a nutritionist. I’m not trained in anything. I’m just a regular mom, doing regular mom things, trying to make the best choices for myself and my daughters. And that means moderation, and it also means no foods go on pedestals. Do you know what happens when you forbid your child from eating a particular food? You create an allure and an intrinsic excitement to try it.
I have always felt that it is important for my daughters to know anything is fine in moderation. When we restrict things like sugar and candy, those foods automatically go on a pedestal. A trophy a kid aims to win. A food that kids will binge upon because it is seen as rare, with no way of knowing when it may come back (if at all). When we tell our children that certain foods are “good” or “bad”, we are assigning perceived moral value and judgement upon foods. For me, food is fuel, and food can be fun – and food should always be consumed intuitively. So yes, you’ll see things like gummy worms and chocolate and mini marshmallows and potato chips occasionally in my bento boxes.
What exposing these foods to my daughters has done has taken away is the allure of the forbidden foods. Consistent access to fun foods if desired has shown my kids that there is no need to binge or hoard, because access is granted if/when they want. 9 times out of 10 my oldest returns her bento box with the treat untouched – it is just “old news” to her at this point. I also use neutral language around food always. I provide the girls with food as fuel (things like whole grains and eggs and fruits and vegetables and protein), and food as fun (gummy worms and chocolate squares). We eat what we want, and listen to what our bodies tell us.
Take Halloween, for instance. We let them indulge in their candy loot as they see fit. My oldest already knows that more than a small amount of chocolate makes her tummy hurt so she avoids it. My youngest doesn’t usually like chips – “too salty”, she says. We pile up everything they receive, discuss what we like, love, and “no thank you” – which I think is important because it teaches them that just because we got toffee for Halloween, doesn’t mean we have to eat it because it hurts all our teeth. Making those decisions together gives them power & choice. Knowing treats aren’t restricted means they’re way more likely to stop when their bellies are uncomfortable. We mindfully choose our likes & loves, and offer up our no thank yous to the food bank. They’re involved every step of the way, no tricks or switches, and honestly…no crazy overindulging happens. They learn what stuffing their face full of Halloween candy feels like (not super awesome), and I helped facilitate a super valuable lifelong lesson in intuitive eating.
By putting the power in the hands of my children, I am teaching them to nourish their bodies mindfully. To honour hunger and satiety, to respond to their own body’s cues for satisfaction and discomfort, and to not allow food to have power over them – hopefully setting them up for life-long healthy relationship with food.
How do you view food and eating in your family?