You will notice that we use healthy and unhealthy a lot on this site. For instance the title itself is The Healthy Mummy.
Although we, as adults, understand the implications and connotations of what healthy are, children do not. Therefore it is important to choose different words to describe foods or a lifestyle which is healthy.
The issue with using these two words with our children is that they have no real meaning to them.
With subconsciously teaching our children about health and healthy eating, we only have a limited space to be able to make an impact. Time is your worst enemy with impatient toddlers and young children.
For a child, the label of health is not of concern to them. They really couldn’t care less. So although we as mothers or adults, understand the importance of health and eat foods or choose them accordingly, children do not.
We need to market the foods to them in a different style. Just like the food manufacturers. We need to speak the kid’s language as much as the big players do.
Some companies market toys with their meals. The child understands the pleasure in toys, so wants the meal. We are not suggesting you give them a toy with each meal but at least there is an opportunity to make the meal exciting.
The other issue I have with the words healthy and unhealthy is that certain foods are really only deemed unhealthy because of the way that they are made.
For instance a pizza from a fast food chain is not going to be as good for your child as a homemade product using a wholemeal base with a fresh tomato sauce. A hamburger from that same toy place is not going to be anywhere near as nutritious as a homemade meat patty served with grated carrot, beetroot and cheese.
Flashing around the words healthy or unhealthy defines some foods in a negative context unnecessarily.
Cake is not really a ‘healthy food’ but eating it at a birthday party is very much part of our culture. To deny a child that celebration isn’t very kind and will not dramatically change their health status or eating habits long term.
Here are a few tips to get your kid to eat healthy without calling the food healthy?
1. “Iron helps me play “or “Red meat helps you run”.
You heard it on the Simpsons but in all seriousness. Red meat is high in iron which is important for your blood health which is critical to your energy levels and absorption of oxygen in your blood stream. Therefore it really does help you play.
We need to break it down into basics. Another example are carrots. We all know the phrase of carrots help you see in the dark. Well scientifically this is not proven, BUT, the vitamin A is from retinol and retinol is incredibly important in eye health.
2. How does this food make you feel?
This is critical with the rise of food intolerances. Does this food make you feel good? If it makes you feel good all day then it is an everyday food. If there is an effect you do not like, then maybe it isn’t an everyday food. You might get really excited, then really tired, which is not good.
3. Everyday and sometimes foods.
This is one the Australian Dietary Guidelines uses and it is quite useful. We eat this food sometimes as it fun but it doesn’t necessarily help us run, climb trees or paint. It is for fun and for celebrations and this is not all the time.
Toast or a carrot or a meatball is an everyday food because these foods help us grow, play, sing better or play harder.
4. No you can’t have that bear shaped chocolate at the counter of the supermarket because…because I said so.
If you eat this you will not have enough space for the foods that we have lovingly prepared and which contain the nutrition and healthy foods which you need. Of course, not child will hear that and basically at the end of the day, sometimes the answer is “Because I said so”. You are the parent and you make the decisions.
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