Ellyn Satter, MS, RD, CICSW starts her book Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family with these words. All too often we focus on what foods we shouldn't eat instead of building meals around foods that taste wonderful and support a healthy body. The news media trumpets lists of foods to avoid instead of celebrating nutritious foods that bring us comfort physically and emotionally.
One of the most important jobs we have as parents is to teach our children to enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods. Good nutrition isn't the only component of healthy eating. According to Satter, healthy eating has just as much to do with developing positive attitudes and feelings about food and mealtimes as well as choosing food that supports good health.
I used Satter's book when our children were young, and I strongly recommend it to every family. There's no one 'right' way to feed your family, and each family develops their own food preferences and traditions. As you develop healthy eating habits for your family, consider these three possibilities:
1. Parents are responsible for planning meals. Serving only macaroni and cheese or fish sticks because those are the only foods your children will eat is a disservice to everyone. Children learn to eat what their parents eat, and setting the expectation that everyone will enjoy a variety of foods gives our children the opportunity to broaden their food preferences.
2. We're born knowing when we're hungry and when we're full. Watch a young child eat: when she's full, she turns her head to the side or even pushes the spoon away. Respect your children's fullness signals and they'll grow up continuing to listen to their body.
3. Make mealtime a positive, enjoyable experience. Meals are more than vitamins and minerals and are a wonderful time to connect with each other and develop strong family relationships.
I agree with Satter when she says that "meals are as essential for nurturing as they are for nutrition." What can you do this week to share good food and love with your children?
Lynn Grieger, RD, CDE, cPT is a health, food and fitness coach in Manchester and online at www.LynnGrieger.com.