For many of us, a new year turns to thoughts of losing weight and getting fit. But when we have kids, we also need to be mindful about how we talk about our bodies and the food we eat.
Before you resolve to start a new fad diet, I checked in with Rachel Pohlman, a registered dietitian at Poe Center for Health Education in Raleigh and mom of two teens, to get some tips for how to talk to our kids about food and get healthy.
Here’s a Q&A.
Go Ask Mom: As a new year approaches, people look to getting in shape. Some look to fad diets and other weight loss strategies that can be unhealthy. What’s the best way to be healthful in regards to food?
Rachel Pohlman: It is best to avoid fad diets and other gimmicks. These may have some short-term success but it is best to look for practices that can be sustained long-term and support your overall health. This starts by being honest with yourself and really looking at your current practices. It may take some tracking to do this. Once this is done, think about an easy first step to take that you can enjoy and sustain. Make it part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
This first step will look different for everyone. It could be to put away screens when you eat, to include a vegetable at dinner every night, to replace a drink with water. Whatever makes sense for you. Practice this for several weeks, keeping in mind it takes a long time to create a habit. If you don’t get it right one day, don’t worry. Just pick up where you left off. Once you are feeling comfortable with your first change, add another step. People tend to create very lofty, broad goals —especially for the new year. Small, realistic steps like those mentioned tend to help us be more successful in meeting our goals.
GAM: Kids practice what we preach, and if we’re constantly worrying about our weight, they often follow. What’s the best way to talk about food and eating with our kids?
RP: It may not always seem like it, but our kids really are watching and listening. When parents put down their own bodies, our kids hear that and internalize it. It can become a part of their own internal voice, leading to negative self-image. When parents eat different food from their kids, kids notice and may wonder what is wrong with their food. Or they may come see healthy eating as a burden that you have to do as you get older.
A great resource on how to feed kids is Ellyn Satter. She highlights a division of responsibility. Essentially, it is the parents job to choose the food and create regular, pleasant mealtimes and model proper behavior. The child controls the amount they eat and learns to behave.
My personal approach is to celebrate the good. Yes, we all enjoy foods that are less healthy and that is OK, but there is also plenty to celebrate with healthy food. I love cooking for my family and share that love with them. I talk about…