… continued from yesterday’s post
4. Eat Breakfast
Eating breakfast is one of the most important habits to develop. Even if it is just a banana and a glass of milk, teach your children that some food in their stomach kick-starts the body for the day making it easier to control weight and giving them energy for work, study and play.
5. Listen to your tummy
“If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding.” Children are born with the ability to stop eating when they are full. But we sometimes unintentionally over-ride this natural regulating mechanism when we make them finish their meal. I do encourage kids to take a few extra bites of the nutritious bits of the meal if they have left too much. If they insist they are full, I let them off – but they don’t get dessert.
Teach older children to listen to their tummy and ask themselves both quantity and quality questions: “Is my tummy full? Will I feel sick if I eat those extra biscuits? Is this what my body really needs right now?” You are training children to be aware of the many cues around them enticing them to eat, even if they are not hungry. Just because they are at the movies or passing the food hall at the shopping centre, do they really need to eat? If an advertisment shows a gorgeous model eating chocolate biscuits or a famous sportsman eating fast food, ask them if they think eating that food will really help them look like that model or be as fast as that sportsman. Do they eat that stuff in real life? What else do they do to look or perform like that? Will eating a certain food or drink give them the same lifestyle and friends as on the advert? If the answer is yes, are they the type of friends they really want?
6. Sit at the table to eat
There’s a time to play, a time to work, a time to rest and a time to eat. All too often the ‘time to eat’ is all the time! We balance dinner on our lap in front of TV, we stuff in a sandwich while continuing to work, and we grab snacks on the run. Train your children to focus on food when it’s meal time and then forget it until the next meal time. This means eating regular meals, sitting at the table – with no distractions. It not only reduces snacking, grazing and the risk of choking as you run around with food in your mouth, it also teaches social skills such as table manners, how to use a knife and fork, how to talk over a meal and patience to wait while others finish.
7. Eat Slowly
I spend my professional life telling people to slow down and enjoy their food, then find myself at home telling the kids to “hurry up and eat!” As much as we would love our children to finish their meal in minutes rather than hours, it won’t be too many years before we will be nagging those same kids to slow down and chew their food ‘properly’ rather than inhaling it. This is a good time to remind them that it takes about 20 minutes for the message to get from their stomach to their brain that they are full. So eating slowly is great for weight control. It also gives them time to chat – preferably without their mouth full!
8. Enjoy Cooking
Children are more likely to become discerning, adventurous eaters if they know how to cook. OK, we all know of overweight chefs but at the very least your future son or daughter-in-law will thank you! Give children their own apron – it’s half the fun of cooking – and let them help you in the kitchen. Buy a kids cook-book for inspiration and as they become more confident let them cook dinner once a week.
9. No routine visits to fast food outlets
As a child I used to think the kids who had fish and chips every Friday night were so lucky. As an adult I am glad this wasn’t part of my childhood training. If kids are trained to associate fast food with good feelings – as a reward for winning Saturday morning sport or as a fun family outing – what are the chances they will go to the sushi bar as adults?
10. Be a role model
Actions speak louder than words. What we teach should be what we do. Like any elite athlete, put the effort into training your children now and you are sure to reap the rewards later.