Raising a Healthy Eater, the Nutrition Dragon Way- Take the Fight out of the Food!
Raising a healthy eater with a healthy attitude about food may seem like a difficult task. Food can be a way for kids to try and gain control and mealtimes can be a struggle for some. Positive eating habits are learned behaviors that can be honed using a few, often simple, tools discussed below, combined with a mantra of "variety, moderation and balance".
• Family Meals: Making a ritual out of the family meal is a wonderful way to develop healthier attitudes about eating and trying new things. It is important that children get in the habit of sitting when eating and not when distracted by the TV or playing. Mealtime can be fun. Kids can create placemats or have a special tasks helping in the kitchen. Grow a family garden or visit a local farm or farmers market, to help kids see the importance of this eating time and develop a connection to food.
• Positive Modeling: The better we can educate ourselves on healthy balanced eating and the better we can work out our own fight with food, the better we can serve as positive healthy eating role models for our children. Children learn from watching and pick up eating cues from parents.
• Choices: “What do you want for snack?” is a dangerous question to ask a child. “I want candy” could be a logical response and then you have a fight on your hands. Giving children a few options is always the best way to reduce the potential for argument. Also remember that anything in moderation is okay, as long as most of the diet is nutritious.
• Rewards and Punishments: while M&M's may seem like the greatest bribe candy on earth for potty training or any other task needing motivation and reward, it sets up an idea that when kids are good, they get to eat sugar and junk. In the same vain, depriving kids of sweets and treats as a punishment, re-enforces the idea that good kids get sweets and bad kids don’t.
Finally, love and accept your child’s body at any shape and size and encourage them to do the same. Find ways for the family to move their bodies together!
For a motivating tool, download the "Healthy Kid's Nutrition Report Card" and have your child work towards a reward (non food) for trying new things and practicing good healthy nutrition habits. How to get your child to try new food will be discussed in a future article.
Stop Telling Me What I Can’t Eat!!!- Ten Simple Healthy Eating Tips From the Nutrition Dragon
With nutrition and diet information flying at you from all angles, it’s important to look them at with a skeptical, sometimes critical eye, so that you don’t fall prey to believing everything you hear. If every food claim was followed to a T, we would be left with local organic kale to eat and drinking triple distilled ionic alkaline water and we’d be very unhappy. When you combine all the diets out there and take their messages on as truth, you’re left with nothing to eat. This one says no fat, this one says no meat, that one says, no dairy, but that one said no soy, eat mostly carbs, don’t eat gluten, eat chocolate, but not sugar. It can drive a dragon crazy. So here are some practical tips to eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight.
Find What Works For You- Notice what foods make you feel tired after you eat them and pay attention to what you crave. Do you feel bloated after certain meals? Chew your food, take your time eating, notice when you feel full and notice when you feel good after eating or if you’ve awakened an angry dragon.
Never Say Never- Follow the rule of “Always Foods”, “Sometimes Foods” and “Rarely Foods” unless you have a diagnosed food allergy a food should not be forbidden, bad or a never food. It will just make you annoyed that you CAN’T have it ever. Especially if it’s something you love. So make it a rarely food, if you must. Stay tuned for the Nutrition Dragon’s Guide to Always, Sometimes and Rarely Foods!
Eat What You Crave- You’ve had your meal, and an hour or so passes, you want something sweet, you really want a bite of your favorite chocolate bar or that chocolate birthday cake in the fridge. You say, no, I shouldn’t and you eat a cut up apple. The chocolate cake keeps calling your name softly at first but then it gets louder and you try to quiet it down by having some carrots, but the cake gets louder, so you eat a non-fat yogurt, but the cake starts yelling, now you grab a handful of something else that your palette finds boring and the cake is pretty much off the table chasing you around the house. At this point, you’ve e eaten 350 calories worth of snack, 30 grams of sugar, etc. and you still want cake. Why not have had a small piece of the stupid cake. Enjoy every bite, feel good about it. You won’t eat more than you need unless youv’e told yourself you can’t or it’s bad, over and over.
Drink Water- Stay hydrated. If you feel thirsty you are already on your way to dehydration. Drink water, flavored seltzer, low sugar drinks. It is so important! Pay attention to the calories in beverages because they add up easily. On a sidebar: A good health message to follow is to avoid bottled water in plastic bottles. Best to get a glass or BPA water bottle and drink tap water, honestly. If you get a filter for your home and fill up your own water bottle. You will save SO MUCH MONEY and avoid all the issues now coming out about bottled water and plastic bottles in general.
Eat Every Few Hours and Don’t Skip Meals, Especially Breakfast- Eat anything for breakfast. Seriously, it’s better to eat a donut than nothing. I imagine half of you are questioning my nutrition sanity, but it’s true. You haven’t put any fuel in your body for like ten to twelve hours and you expect your body and brain to function with no fuel. Your going to use your muscles up and slow down your metabolism. ROAR! EAT BREAKFAST!!!!! Of course, a meal with protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber is ideal, but not realistic for everyone. Breakfast should be your biggest of the day, go for it, if you can. And skipping meals in general throws everything off, makes you gain weight and makes you make not the greatest choices when food is placed in front on you. Keep snacks around. Fruit, nuts, popcorn, yogurt, protein bars, cut veggies, pretzels, a peanut butter sandwich…just try and eat every three hours if you can. A grumble in the tummy and you’re already a bit late. Feed your inner dragon.
Enjoy Your Food- If you are so regimented about your diet or feel such guilt and shame about your weight or about “slipping” from a regimented health plan, it will make you less healthy. I’m not making this up. We put such pressure on ourselves to do it perfectly that we sabatage healthy efforts very often. Whatever you eat, enjoy it, feel good about it.You are either feeding your belly or your soul. If it’s a “rarely” type food, than enjoy it and amp up veggies and lighter foods at your next meal. But don’t beat yourself up for enjoying a cookie!
Eat Lots of Fruits and Vegetables- and here it is, what you’ve been waiting for, a specific nutrition reccomendation. I can tell you exactly what to eat for specific diet or health goal results. I can make you a plan of what to put in your mouth each second, the best brands, the best recipes, the best sources of vitamins and nutrients, etc. OR I could make this obvious suggestion. Fill up on Vegetables and Fruits. No one ever got unhealthy from eating too many carrots. I don’t care if they have sugar in them. Eat as many vegetables as you can in a day, 5-7 servings if you can and eat about 3-5 servings of fruit (whole or cut). Between that and the water, you will be well on your way to achieving any health goal.
Eat Real Food-eat the closest you can to the whole original food, the way nature inteneded. If you cant read half the ingredients on a label or there are 20 ingredients in a food product that could be made with 5, it’s a heavily processed food and so far from the actual food source. A potato is different from a potato chip, an orange is so much healthier than orange juice and a hamburger patty (ingredients, meat and spices) is very different from a fast food hamburger. If you don’t have the time to make all your meals, even if its not a super healthy food, choose the one with less ingredients.
Try To Avoid Eating Unless You Are Hungry- If you are eating because you are bored, angry, lonely. stressed or tired, it throws your body off and we lose the ability to tell when we are truly hungry and truly full. Once a while eating to eat is just fine, but eating to avoid negative feelings is rarely a good idea.
Finally, Yes, Choose Organic When Practical, Possible and Affordable-The things you eat the most of should be organic, when possible. Anything with fat, like milk, meats and oils are important. And you can save money by reducing the amount of soda and less healthy foods and put it towards these.
These simplified Nutrition Dragon recommendations apply to children and adults. Go forth, enjoy eating, it’s a great pleasure!