Mount Vernon parents gathered recently to hear from a panel of speakers that included a nutritionist, a pediatrician, a therapist, a fitness expert, and a physical therapist. The message was consistent and clear. What we model as parents about food and body image has a direct impact on our children and how they see their own bodies. We must be conscious of our own self-talk. The word diet is never helpful, and most research shows that there is weight gained with each diet we go on. One easy change to make is for us to count our protein grams instead of counting the calories that we eat or burn off in the gym. It is imperative that we help our children learn to trust their internal hunger systems. Fueling the body well includes having regular small meals. Missing meals and other small “dieting behaviors” such as removal of carbohydrates eventually backfires and leads to overeating. Fueling active children and athletes requires that we focus on what the body needs: 1. increased calories to account for the activity, 2. increased grains and fruits for energy, and 3. increased protein for growth. Carbohydrates are fuels for the body and should not be eliminated from our diet. If we help our children fuel more efficiently they can perform more effectively. This is a much healthier message than simply train more. Overtraining often results in a greater risk of injury.
Most of us can identify some of our own food fears. Many of these are based on fiction and not fact. We often transfer our own fears onto our children and they can become confused about what they should be eating. Our bodies need fats and carbohydrates in moderation. If you find that your child is overeating in a certain category, it is best to help them learn to moderate this (and this is not done by criticizing) and add other healthy alternatives. Completely restricting certain foods will result in sneaking food and in overeating.
Focus on the positive with your children. Instead of telling them what NOT to eat, focus on finding alternatives and substitutes that are satisfying. There are many wonderful blogs and websites that offer suggestions. Also, find things that you can do to be healthy such as take more walks, go for a run, or ride bikes together. Avoid food battles and keep trying to find healthy and fun alternatives that your family can do together. Eating meals together can have a positive effect on healthy eating and improved communication among families. These are just a few of the small changes we can make that have an impressive impact on fueling our bodies well and building healthy strong bodies.