America is known for having some of the most unhealthy food habits in the world, but instilling healthy food attitudes can be a complicated problem. We all want our families to eat healthy, but we also want them to enjoy treats without anxiety. Unfortunately, what kids learn about food at school and our own harping at home can actually be detrimental to kids’ outlook on food, causing them to fear food instead of enjoy it.
A French Perspective
France is renowned for having a very healthy perspective on food, with some of the world’s best dishes being introduced by France and the children being famously adaptable to a large variety of dishes. French people tend to focus more on moderation than on balance of calories or nutrients, yet their dishes are healthier than American dishes overall. The French perspective of relaxing and enjoying food, rather than trying to make it medicine, may actually work better than the way we do things now.
Stay Away from “Good” versus “Bad” Food Labels
When we say that ice cream or doughnuts are bad or say that we are being bad when we eat them, we pass certain phobias onto our children. Worrying about these issues before they even hit puberty can have a devastating effect on children’s self esteem, as they enjoy eating foods that we have taught them are “bad.” Simply integrating all types of food into the diet and limiting treats may help you to avoid ingraining these stigmas and the emotional associations that go with them.
Be a Food Role Model
When you tell your children that eating certain foods is important, then don’t eat those foods yourself, it can be very confusing. Children are much more likely to follow your habits than your advice. Be aware of what you are teaching with your behaviors and your own perspective about what you eat and how you feel about yourself.