A Better Way to Talk to Your Kids About Food
No one wants their kids to grow up having the same struggles with food as Mom or Dad.
Unfortunately, other than the food pyramid and advice like “finish your plate,” most of us got our nutrition education from diet culture.
This leads to a mindset of good vs. bad foods, making it instinctual to simply tell our kids things like, “You don’t need more of that… it’s not good for you.”
But what does that really mean?
Is having a scoop of ice cream the same as ingesting a bottle of motor oil? If it’s “bad” for you, should you eat it at all?
Since it’s not realistic to think we’ll give up treats and convenience foods forever, the good vs. bad mindset perpetuates a cycle that leads to confusion (about what’s really ok to eat), guilt (for liking and eating the “bad” foods), and an unhealthy life (because they haven’t learned how to do it otherwise).
That’s why we use a different approach.
An Actual Education
A better way to teach kids to eat a more balanced diet is by talking about these 3 concepts:
Nutrients are what’s inside every food. They give our bodies what it needs to be healthy, have lots of energy, and grow big and strong.
Some foods have lots of nutrients (like fruits and veggies). We try to eat these more often.
Some have less (like white bread). These are fine, too, but we try not to rely on them quite as much.
Even candy has nutrients—it just happens to have more of certain ones than what our body needs. That’s why we try to not have them all the time, but there’s nothing wrong with enjoying them every once in a while.
2. Protein, Carbs, and Fats
Almost every food has some combination of these “Big 3” nutrients. The goal is to get a balance of each.
It can be helpful to point out (or learn with your child) which foods have more of which specific nutrient (like the examples in the pic below).
My kids know if their last snack was goldfish crackers (carbs), their next choice should be something like a greek yogurt (protein), peanut butter (fat), or even a higher quality carb like fruit.
Learning these things takes time, but you’d be surprised how quickly kids can pick it up (just think of how easy it is for them to learn a new language).
Aside from the big 3, there are tons of other “little” nutrients our bodies need. The best way to get them is with veggies.
Just saying “veggies are good for you” isn’t super inspiring for a 5 year old (or a 35 year old for that matter).
But understanding nutrients and knowing that the little ones in veggies are what will help them not get sick as often, can increase their brain power, and will give them more strength and energy so they can run faster and jump higher…
It lays a foundation that’s more likely to stick as they get older.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Talking to your kids about food isn’t about getting it perfect. Sometimes it’s just easier to speak in terms of “healthy” and “unhealthy.”
Just like with your own nutrition, the goal is to be a little bit more consistent about the choices you make and the words you use. It’s that consistency—not unrealistic expectations of perfection—that will pay off in the end.
Of course, more important than any of this is how you feel about your answer to this single question:
“What are they learning from my example?”
Because, the truth is, you can’t force habits on your kids that you haven’t established (or that you’re at least working on) yourself. They’re too smart for that.
Why would they stop resisting you and buy into something that you clearly don’t find valuable enough to adopt in your own life?
I know it isn’t easy, but it can get easier.
Wouldn’t it be nice if your kids didn’t have to fight so hard to break old habits when they grow up?
If that’s what you want, you have to start with yourself. We have a GUARANTEED way to work on these things and actually improve your health — so that you can feel good about passing down these new habits to your kids.
Check out how our coaching works here.