Putting Food in Perspective: Strategies to Prevent Food Issues

Today is Money-Saving Monday at CookingManager.Com.

Raising children with healthy eating habits saves money on food, health expenses, and more. But even on Money-Saving Monday, parents’ primary concern is still the mental and physical well-being of our children and not our wallets.

Obesity is growing at epidemic rates, along with anorexia and other eating disorders.  My mother used a variety of strategies that I believe helped her children develop a healthy attitude toward food. I can’t say that I have no food issues, and genetics play an important role as do many other psychological factors. As commenter Leora suggested, eating disorders may have more to do with emotions than food. But I think her approach served us well.

My mother:

  1. Served appropriate servings on individual plates. Click to read my analysis of the advantages of this approach.
  2. Served a healthy, varied, and fresh dinner for the family every day at the same time.
  3. Never offered seconds nor expected children to clear their plates, beyond pointing out the importance of not wasting food.
  4. Never forced us to eat. She encouraged us to try new foods, but I don’t recall any battles. If you didn’t like something, you made a peanut butter sandwich. My brother often did.
  5. Never restricted food. Seconds were available on asking. Snacks included fruit or cookies and milk.
  6. Did not discuss food at meals. My mother thought about food preparation a lot. She devoted time to learning new techniques and cooked special foods  for Sabbath and holidays.  But the eating itself was never the focus. There was little discussion about whether this or that item was tastier, because once served and eaten its taste was irrelevant.
  7. Involved children in meal preparation. I believe this also took the focus off of eating.
  8. Rarely served fancy desserts, and did not cook to “show off.”
  9. Rarely talked about her own weight and dieting.

My mother’s  goal was to serve healthy, tasty, and attractively presented food, so that her family and guests would have an enjoyable eating experience.   But she left decisions about the type of food, the quantity, and and even whether  to eat, up to each person.

What strategies do you recommend for parents to raise children with a balanced attitude toward food?

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Comments

  1. Katherine says:

    gosh, this is such a tricky one. my kid is only a year old and I already see how much it annoys me when he doesn’t eat. I’m learning to not show I’m annoyed, and to just find him something else he will eat, and to let it go if he won’t. It’s difficult – I left home and put on ten kilos – and we were fed a healthy diet at home with very few sweets. I just never learned how to eat healthily, and not over do it, even though I ate properly at home.

    • Hi Katherine,
      I think the societal/cultural component is very strong. Parents can only do so much, we are exposed to so much advertising and messages encouraging us to overeat.

  2. I’m not a social worker or psychologist, but in my limited understanding food is just the symptom in an eating disorder. The underlying feelings of the child being repressed and not allowed healthy expression seems to be more of the root cause of an eating disorder.

    That said, not forcing food seems like a key ingredient. On the other hand, talking about food was a huge part of table talk both in my childhood home and now. What’s the big deal? We love talking about food.

    • Leora wrote: “Food is just the symptom in an eating disorder.” Like I mentioned, there are probably many factors. It could be that the repressed feelings will come out in some other negative way–just not through an eating disorder.
      “What’s the big deal? We love talking about food.”
      I want to think more about your comment. Perhaps is all a matter of degree.

  3. I removed the part about food disorders. It was going too far. Still thinking about the second. Do you have trouble seeing comments? Katherine does.

  4. I left my first comment on this blog (which is terrific, by the way!) under the post about serving on individual plates (we do that in our house)- it seems to have disappeared. :-(

    Anyway, we try to have a healthy attitude about food around here. Most of your strategies are similar to what we do (though we do discuss food at the table). Basically, we’re pretty casual. We don’t constantly preach to the kids about eating healthy or force them to clean their plates. They get fed a healthy diet most of the time, with some junk thrown in here and there.

    I agree with the point about kids helping with meal preparation- my boys love doing that stuff.

    • HI Lori,
      I saw the comment, but apparently forgot to approve it. I approve all first-time commenters. Thanks for the compliment–I needed it today, and I’m glad to see you’re back to blogging regularly.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Putting Food in Perspective (at Cooking [...]

  2. [...] Cooking Manager. A couple of years ago, she wrote a post on preventing food issues, which detailed her mother’s approach to feeding their family. She followed it up with a second post, answering a reader’s questions, on feeding picky [...]

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