If you only take away one thing from this post….It is that kids need to learn about food in a non-judgemental way. In other words, learning experiences about food, eating and nutrition need to be kept neutral and positive.
Another handy tip is to make the most out of individual experiences. These individual experiences make the following lessons more appropriate, fun and relatable.
Let’s now look at some other important lessons about food, bodies and eating.
Other important things kids need to learn include:
- To focus on food exposure.
- To keep judgement out of eating. No-one is a ‘good’ person for eating specific foods. E.g. A child is not ‘good’ for eating vegetables and ‘bad’ for not eating vegetables
- To appreciate food.
- To like/love food.
- To enjoy a wide variety of food.
- What food does for us, how it affects our body and makes us feel.
- Where food comes from.
- How many factors influence food and eating. Such factors include medical (including allergies), financial, cultural, religious, social, time and energy issues, a parent’s own history around food and values, and, more importantly, the needs of the child.
- How senses can help us to learn more about food and appreciate it.
- To trust our bodies.
- To continue to respect, accept and like/love bodies.
- What their body can do and what bodies, in general, can do.
- Bodies are meant to look different and that all bodies are good bodies.
- To eat food for nourishment, enjoyment, satisfaction and survival.
- How to eat intuitively or work to reconnect with internal body signals – Learn how to make food choices based on their appetite. Kids need to learn to make food choices of ‘how much’ to eat and ‘whether’ they eat. They also need to learn to eat most of the time when they are hungry, stop eating when they are comfortably full and choose foods they feel like eating.
- What appetites feel like and what purpose is serves – How appetite varies throughout the day, from day to day depending on the body’s needs.
What Kids Don’t Need to Learn About Food
The following is a list of things kids don’t need to learn about food.
Kids don’t understand abstract concepts of thinking about food. It’s not until kids are teenagers that kids somewhat understand with appropriate support how inappropriate the focus on the following diet strategies are.
This focus risks interfering with growth and development and maintenance of natural eating patterns, and increased risk for disordered eating behaviours.
- How to count calories.
- How to try and “burn-off’ food or manipulate/change their body with food.
- Talk about food as if it has moral value – ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’.
- To eat everything on the plate.
- To eat “healthy food” first.
- That sugar, fat, salt (name food culprit here) is ‘bad’ – because it’s not!
- To be bribed or rewarded with food.
- That eating too much causes ‘obesity’ and this causes poor health. Check your facts if you believe this.
These unhelpful lessons take children away from their body wisdom and trusting their body. When body trust declines so do their natural intuitive eating behaviours. When lessons like these are taught, children will start to do more non-hungry eating and fill their bellies beyond feeling satisfied, which leaves them feeling uncomfortable and sick.
All this can lead to children forming a poor relationship with food, where they turn to food as a comfort and distraction strategy.
Let’s challenge diet mentality and diet culture that perpetuates harmful healthism (Definition from Dictionary.com – a lifestyle that prioritizes health and fitness over anything else) and weight bias, weight stigma and ultimately undermines trust in our kids’ body wisdom.