A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Helping a kid keep healthy habits

on February 17, 2016
 We’ve talked before about how big a motivation Oliver is for me in adopting a healthy lifestyle. Darrell and I both want Oliver to grow up with a healthier diet than the southern fried food we grew up with, but I also want to avoid introducing the kind of food and body image issues I struggle with.


Oliver and I went to a cooking class together on Monday where someone thought it was a wise idea to give a bunch of kids FOUR desserts at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. We had a ton of fun cooking and what struck me most watching Oliver was how well he self-regulated his food intake. Instead of eating all 4 desserts just because they were there, Oliver took tastes of things but didn’t feel the need to finish them. Who doesn’t finish chocolate cake ?! A kid who knows that just a taste is as good as inhaling the whole thing, that’s who. It amazes me that my kid has a healthier relationship with food than I do right now. Now I’ve just got to be careful not to screw it up!

Green smoothie

So how are we going to keep that healthy mindset?

We involve him in picking out the food we eat and in preparing it. He’s always more likely to eat a new food if he’s had a hand in what shows up on the table.

Chopping pears

We have a garden and let him actually participate in knowing where the food actually comes from, in addition to visiting the farmer’s market and talking to real farmers. Our city mouse is fairly sheltered about the real world, but this at least gives him a little glimpse. We’ve been afraid to tread too far into the whole idea of where his beloved turkey comes from, but veggies we can talk about freely.

We talk about food in terms of the good things it does for us, in terms of giving us energy and building our muscles. He was the only kid in pre-kindergarten who talked about calcium in the milk back when he broke his leg.

We don’t talk about foods making us fat. I am distressed at how hard this one is. Why should that be my automatic answer to why we don’t have dessert every night? We don’t have dessert every night so we can save room for foods that build healthy bodies. That should be the answer to myself, just like it is to him, not we don’t have dessert every day because it would make us fat.

We let him self-regulate how much he eats. This is so hard for me as a mom, letting him decide how much is enough. However, developmentally kids are good at regulating amounts of food they eat when they’re young. At some point in childhood, we teach them to ignore those signals. They aren’t as inherently good at regulating the kinds of food they eat, so it’s our job as parents to make sure they get a good variety of nutrients rather than live on chicken nuggets. However, it isn’t our job to make them clean their plates. I have to tell myself that a million a times a week.

We encourage sometimes foods like cake and pie and cookies as sometimes foods, worth enjoying but not worth feeling guilty over. Again, I have to struggle not to project my issues here as well! We try to avoid using food as a reward or emotional balm as much as we can too, although Oliver has called me on it when I screwed this up! Just a week ago, we were talking about things to cheer us up when we had a bad day and when I mentioned cookies, he told me “food is not a friend Mama.” What a wise guy!

We never talk about being fat or gaining weight or anything like that in front of him. I’d love to say I never talk about it when he isn’t around, but I’m just not there yet. I’m getting better. I need to be sure I don’t talk about myself EVER in a way I wouldn’t talk about myself in front of him.

How do you encourage your kids to keep a healthy diet and a healthy relationship with food? I’m dreading the intrusion of the real world once real school starts. Right now, things are fairly controlled in terms of the kind of food school provides (no outside foods at our preschool and limited treats) and what we have at home. With public school and visits with friends, I’m about to lose a lot of control of what he’s exposed to. Fingers crossed that the lessons we’re teaching now will stick a bit!



2 responses to “Helping a kid keep healthy habits

  1. Anna says:

    I have been thinking quite a bit about this with our upcoming plans. Thank you for spelling out some good goals and strategies. I think the areas you identified as challenging for you will also be a challenge for us. But it is so important and worth the effort.

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