By Megrette Fletcher M.Ed., RD, CDE
The perfect time to talk about nutrient density and the value of food is when emotions and cravings are low. I find the first two phases of eating — the non-eating and preparation phase of eating — are excellent times to chat about food.
These phases can be when you go grocery shopping. Consider letting your kid loose with a smartphone and together discover healthier options! If that isn’t possible, make a game of shopping! Ask them to find a cereal or bread they would try that has 3 grams of fiber. Find a yogurt that they will try that has less than 20 grams of carbohydrates.
When you see what is selected, remember to laugh and encourage the child. This is the Play part of change, so have fun with it. Sure, your child might want to select a food because of the cartoon character on the package. This choice gives you the opportunity to say, “We don’t buy foods because a TV show is fun to watch, we buy foods because they help our body and provide us with nutrition. Please put this back, and find another option.” Understanding what you value will help your kid learn the foods that represent those values. (And yes, later in life, your kids might jokingly request therapy for all of those conversations!)
As you can see, calories are a tiny part of the nutrition puzzle. Nutrition is part of a bigger puzzle of health, which is part of the biggest one of all, the family, love, and happiness puzzle! So what is the real value of calories? As with money, parents want their child to know more than the difference between a nickel and a quarter. Teaching your child to focus on identifying just higher- or lower-calorie foods is similar to teaching your child to identify only quarters and nickels. It does not teach your child the VALUE of quarters and nickels. Teaching your child the value of money is a far more complex goal. In addition, the value of money is influenced by many factors, including your view of money and its value to you. The same is true for nutrition. The value of eating a balanced diet is influenced by many factors, including your own experiences, your time, your energy, and how much you value nutrition.
Mindful Eating for Kids begins by creating a culture that represents your nutrition values. Explore your values with your child by using the four phases of Discover, Explore, Play, and Challenge. This format helps parents instinctively select the phase that would work for their family. There is no pushing, arguing, or food fights with eating. These have been replaced with the intention to talk about what the parent and child value. This teaching method doesn’t offer a quick fix or claim to work in 3 easy steps! What Mindful Eating does is help explore a deeper understanding of nutrition that aligns with your family’s values. Have fun and enjoy shifting your nutrition conversations to help the entire family eat and enjoy nutritious meals and snacks!
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