Today, childhood obesity is on the rise worldwide which puts these kids at greater risk of developing chronic diseases including cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The food choices and habits of children get influenced by the environmental settings they get at home, at school, and in their community.
Studies suggest a strong correlation between one’s food parenting habits with his or her dieting habits and socio-economic status. We will discuss some of the best food parenting practices and what, as moms, we need to keep in mind while we try to help our kids develop the healthy dietary practices and a habit to make healthy food choices.
What is Food Parenting?
As the term suggests, food parenting refers to the parenting practices people follow to influence the food intake of their children. It may include feeding style of a parent or how a parent interacts with the child while eating, as well as strategies and practices they employ to manage what their children eat, how much they eat, and when they eat.
How Do You Influence Your Child’s Food Habits?
There are many aspects to food parenting that we, as moms, need to keep in mind. Mrs L, who provides professional dissertation writing help to PhD students, shared an excellent list of food parenting practices with us which was prepared by Gevers et al:
Based on the list, she suggests the following food parenting practices for the new moms or the moms that are struggling with their family’s food choices:
Keeping unhealthy food out of reach: “I am a single mom who works from home. I write dissertations every single day, which means that I am stuck to my laptop hours at a time. I do not have time for instant grocery shopping and you have to be ready for surprise guests, right? So, I do buy chips and wafers and soft drinks but purposefully, stock them in the highest drawer of my kitchen cupboard – out of the reach of my children as well as myself,” Mrs L shared.
Keeping fruits and healthy snacks at the dining table: We can’t completely avoid binge eating. A bright, fresh, colourful fruit basket right at the centre of the dining table with a knife, a few plates, and forks nearby are the best reminders of what to eat in-between the meals.
Keeping the shopping list sorted: When you make the list for grocery shopping, discuss it with your children. Make sure that the list of unhealthy food is as short as possible and the list of healthy food items – like milk, juices, eggs, fruits, and fresh and green vegetables is longer. This discussion can be as deep as you like and allow you time to discuss the ‘health quotient’ of a food, its shelf life, how good or bad it is for our body, how good or bad it is for our environment and so on.
Avoid giving chocolates as rewards or stress-busters: One of the biggest mistakes that we tend to make as moms is that we offer candies or chocolates or cookies (or some other foods like pizzas and burgers) to children as rewards for their achievements or to help them feel better when they are sad or angry. This practice makes the child associate food with ‘positive’ feelings. As the child grows up, he or she will still look for ‘comfort foods’ to help them feel happier or better. Nip this practice in the bud.
Avoid bribing kids with junk food or punish them by not giving them the next meal: Offering the child a candy to make him do something or not giving him dinner as a punishment for something he has done is a bad food parenting practice. It must be avoided. It can make the ‘food’ an emotional anchor in the child’s life. If necessary, you can offer small toys or non-food rewards to your children or take them away as required but do not use ‘food’ for that purpose.
Establish a routine for the family: Involve your child in cooking food, eat at fixed times, and try to eat together as a family. This helps you monitor what, when, and how much your child is eating, discuss the healthy food habits with him, and model good eating behaviours for them. Have some meal-time rituals (like saying a prayer or discussing your day with each other) to make this a fun time for the entire family.
Set rules and monitor them as a family: When you set rules, make sure you also follow them. Keep an eye on each other and discuss who broke the rules from time-to-time. Mealtime get-togethers are a good time to discuss this. Provide feedback to each other and make it fun. If someone has been good, praise them. If someone has broken the rule, explain to them why it had been set in the first place. Or perhaps you can ask that person why he or she indulged in it despite knowing that it is not good for us.
What is Your Food Parenting Style?
Danny Nguyen wrote about four major food parenting styles:
Permissive Feeding Style: Believed to be the most common food parenting style, here, parents let children decide what to eat and when to eat. Quick cooking recipes and eating in-between meals is common here. This too-soft approach can lead to a situation where you lose any authority over what your child eats. Research proves that this kind of food parenting can lead to a disaster where children become obese and have low immunity levels.
Authoritarian Feeding Style: If you are a strict mom who forces their kids to eat specific foods, bans all unhealthy foods altogether, and make them finish the food served to them, you are an authoritarian. You have full control over what your child eats. While this is the traditional food parenting style and has been in place for generations, it does not allow the child to have his or her own food choices and eating preferences. This parenting style is often related to an emotional distance between parents and children and is often associated with food behaviours like slow eating and early satiety. It may lead to children being warped weight ratios depending on what their parents make them eat. They do not enjoy their food and may also have weak immunity.
Neglectful Feeding Style: If you forget to eat or feed your children on time or you do not make time for grocery shopping on a regular basis, you are guilty of this ‘failed’ food parenting style. If you are too poor or too busy to provide proper food to your children, your children might harbour food insecurities and emotional disorders that are hard to fight even when they become adults. If you fall into this category, you need quick intervention and a bit more planning on how to manage your household.
Authoritative Feeding Style: This is believed to be the best food parenting style as parents interact with their child on food and eating habits on a daily basis. The parents encourage the child to develop healthy eating habits and eat the right food in the right proportions. Roles of parents and children are clearly defined, where parents decide when and what to eat and children have the freedom to decide whether they want to eat the food offered to them or not as well as the quantity of food they want to eat. Children’s choices and emotions are kept in mind while offering them the food choices.
Determine the kind of approach you employ. Encourage your children to handle food responsibly and not waste it and eat a balanced diet to develop a stronger immunity.
Rruchi Shrimalli is a Content Marketing Manager for transtutors.com, Godissertationhelp.co.uk, Goassignmenthelp.com.au and several other websites. She is a writer and a journalist at heart, and has been writing articles on various aspects of the Education domain since 2010. Her articles have been published at Shiksha.com, India.com, and Employment News among others.