How To Raise A Healthy Eater
It’s really tempting these days to classify foods as “good vs bad”, or “healthy vs. unhealthy”. As we Registered Dietitians say, “All foods fit”. The distinction is how foods are used in the diet.
A useful way to think about this is “nutrient density”, which refers to nutrients per calorie. For example, compare a fresh apple to apple pie. A fresh apple has about 80 calories, lots of vitamins and minerals, and very little fat. The sugar in apples comes naturally. The average slice of apple pie has about 400 calories, and some of the vitamins and minerals, but more sugar and fat than the fresh fruit. So the pie is less nutrient dense than the fresh apple. If you choose foods that are more nutrient dense more of the time, you can create a “healthy” eating plan for you and your child.
Another way to raise a healthy eater is to encourage your child to respond to physical hunger and fullness signals. We all have these physical signals; we are born with them. Our society does a great job of encouraging us to avoid responding appropriately to them. Food is everywhere, and we are encouraged by advertising and social influences to eat at all times, regardless of whether or not we are hungry. Our children learn not to pay attention, as they watch what we do.
Our job should be to help our children learn to distinguish between hunger and other feelings, such as boredom, hurt, or anger, or feeling just plain happy. Some people, adults and kids, just know when they are hungry and only eat then. But most of us eat when food is available, and that’s almost always. Many people easily confuse emotions with hunger, and we can help our children (and ourselves!) make these distinctions. When you are hungry, physically hungry, eat. When you are NOT hungry do something else!