Toolkit to Help Kids Get the Nutrients They Need
Ways to Take the Anxiety Out of Nutrition for Kids
If you’ve ever offered a low-key bribe to get your little ones to eat their vegetables (okay, or a trip to McDonalds) or have to play videos to distract them, you know the frustration and anxiety parents and caregivers face around kids’ nutrition. Be gently persistent, and take the long view.
When kids have some choice and control, a basic understanding of why nutrition matters, and a safe, low-stress environment to try some food experiments… a lot can change( for the better).
Be a role model. Eat slowly. Eat meals at the table. Undistracted. Be curious about the food. Focus on the foods that are nutritious and make you feel good. Stop eating when satisfied or full, not stuffed.
Know what’s your role and what’s the kid’s. As a parent, you shop for food, prepare the food, provide food at set times. Make eating times enjoyable. Kids decide which of the available food to eat. They’d decide how much to eat.
Explore food feelings. Make sure kids feel safe to communicate worries and anxiety around food. Common reasons for uncomfortable food feelings – being teased at school for unhealthy or too healthy choices, family members pressuring kids to eat a certain ways.
Connect food to superpowers. Educate kids about how the right food will turn them into a super kid eg. Protein rich food helps your muscles get stronger. Healthy Carbs give energy to play hard. Vegetables help to protect from getting sick.
Ask for input. Sometimes picky eating is less about food than control. Make them part of decision making. Give them a chance to feel in charge. Like when you are going to buy grocery, ask them if they would like to add anything to the list.
Offer customisable meals. Appetites and preferences differ, so plates can too. Present a variety of healthy options to let the kids confidently build their own meals. Like if making a Pizza, ask them for their choice of toppings.
Avoid moralising food choices. Talking about food in terms of good or bad can lead to shame or approval seeking. This overcomplicates relationship with food. It is normal to eat for pleasure as it is normal to eat for a strong, healthy body. It’s ok to over eat occasionally, a really tasty meal. It’s ok not to eat certain foods.
Take the pressure off. It’s understandable to want perfection like ‘eat on the dining table’ or ‘don’t eat in front of TV’. But generally that’s not realistic. Life is busy for them also. Sometimes tantrums happen. It’s ok to let your kids win.
February 6, 2022