As a consulting dietitian with a nutrition counselling practice, I’m often asked
for help with assorted nutritional challenges. Sometimes finding solutions
can be difficult, but most often they’re not as tough as many parents think.
Here are a few common mistakes I come across over and over again.
Never allowing treats
into your home
Solution: As parents, we tend
to believe we can have total control
over what our kids eat, but we all learn
eventually that the outside world can
indeed influence their food choices
– and not always in the best way. If
the offerings in their friends’ kitchens
resemble the chip aisle at the supermarket,
without your supervision, your
child may give new meaning to the expression,
‘like a kid in a candy shop’.
That’s not to say that you should not
be a gatekeeper and put limits on
treats. Teaching moderation, though,
is an invaluable lesson. If guests arrive
at your home bearing chocolates or
desserts, having your youngsters partake
in reasonable size servings and
then saving the rest for another day
helps to avoid binge behaviours. It
also discourages them from sneaking
treats behind your back.
Trying to get kids who
overeat to eat less
Solution: Don’t create a battleground
where you try to limit the
amounts your youngster is eating.
Instead, focus on what the cause of
the overeating might be. First look
to breakfast and/or lunch to see if
the meals are adequate in size or if
they’re balanced. Skipped breakfasts,
uneaten lunches or those filled mainly
with carbs can lead to an insatiable
appetite later in the day.
Another solution is to add more
foods with filling power and lower
calorie counts. For example, if your
child can polish off a plate of spaghetti
and meatballs in a flash, start
your meal with a large bowl of vegetable
soup. Or instead of serving a
piece of chicken and a side of rice and
veggies, try a stir-fry packed with a
greater volume of vegetables.
Banishing foods that
your kids dislike from
the menu, instead of
Solution: You can’t be blamed
for trying to prepare meals that your
family likes. Consider, though, that
many nutrient-packed foods also
have stronger or distinctive flavours.
A comparison of white versus a nutty
whole grain bread, or iceberg lettuce
and a dark, leafy green such as arugula
are perfect examples of foods
with bland versus distinctive flavours.
Research shows that it can take 20
tastes to turn a disliked food into one
that is actually enjoyed. The tastes
can be tiny – just a teaspoon each
time – which is much less off-putting
to a child as well.
Learning how to be a healthy eater
is a process. We don’t expect to
teach values and morals overnight
yet we often think that teaching kids
how to love a variety of healthy eats
happens overnight.(By the way, this
method of learning to like an assortment
of foods also works with picky
Making your home a
junk food heaven
Solution: If you stock your home
with a wide assortment of items with
little nutritional value, when your kids
open the pantry or fridge door, this is
what they will see. And you can be sure
that this is what they will want to eat.
Instead keep nutritious eats handy,
making them the first foods that youngsters
will spot when they’re looking for
something to munch on. Keep a fruit
bowl on the counter or cut up veggies
in the fridge to make it easy for them
to grab something healthy. If you want
to make these foods more enticing,
you can keep wholesome dips handy
Preaching to your kids
about healthy eating,
but not doing it yourself
Solution: When parents complain
about how their kids eat, I often
ask – to their surprise – about their
own eating style. Being an example
to your children can help to change
their ways. The days when you could
expect your youngsters to eat their
vegetables when one parent turns up
his or her nose at the thought of eating
it are long gone. Kids take their cues
from their parents. If your eating habits
are in need of a revamp, there’s nothing
wrong with telling your kids. Then
make it a family effort.
Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting
dietitian in private practice and
is author of The Enlightened Eater’s
Whole Foods Guide (Viking Canada).
Join Rosie on Facebook at facebook.
com/EnlightenedEater for her opinion
on healthy eats.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, November 2012.