When I graduated college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics, I was going to go out and save the world. Picture a women flying through the air with a cape and a platter of fresh vegetables in her hand. My experience at that time was very naive to say the least. However, it was probably working with children that taught me the most about life and nutrition.
I’ve worked in many capacities as a nutritionist including renal, community nutrition programs, and teaching nutrition to children and teens. I’ve heard some of the funniest statements concerning food and nutrition come right out of the mouths of babes. Children are not wise to the world yet and receive many mixed messages that are confusing to them.
Kids are fun
Once, while teaching on the macronutrients to elementary age kids, I asked the class this simple question, “what do think about fat?” One student very confidently blurted out, “you could have a heart attack and die!” Interestingly, a few years later while teaching a health class to teens, I received very similar responses to the same question.
As a nutritionist, I sometimes forget that my methods of approaching nutrition within my own household are unique and not common. My son often jokes with family and friends on what it’s like to live with a dietitian. Once while visiting with friends, someone had a slight flatulence problem and apologized to him. My son’s response was, “are you kidding, I live with a dietitian. In our house it’s a n-o-r-m-a-l b-o-d-i-l-y f-u-n-c-t-i-o-n.”
These are some other things I’ve learned from children:
• Even if you never buy it, square flat cheese is cool!
• White bread is where it’s at. Whole grain? Eh!
• Halloween is all about the candy!
• Thanksgiving is all about the mashed potatoes smothered in gravy.
• Holidays are all about the array of desserts.
Tips for nutrition with children
I graduated college with a rigid view of how diet and lifestyle were going to be for everyone else. I quickly learned it’s really none of my business. I provide the resources and the rest is up to the other person. Soon, after I had children of my own, I learned the importance of moderation and the need to abolish the rigidity. Now I offer ways for people to enjoy a healthy diet that is affordable and kid friendly.
I don’t restrict because I’ve noticed that only creates a stimulus to that particular food making it all the more enticing. Not the result I’m looking for. Instead we try to keep a variety of foods on hand and focus on moderation instead of restriction. I try to lead by example (as much as possible). I often discuss and include my children in the food buying and preparation. I started a garden many years ago and I include them on the gardening process.
Discussing bowel habits may sound gross but it’s very impacting. Nobody wants to be constipated. But if you’re eating a highly refined, low fiber diet, you’re most likely going to experience constipation. My kids know this and try to include fresh fruits and vegetables in their daily diet.
Unless you live on a deserted island, your children are going to be exposed to many types of foods, including the ones you could live without. Practice balance and moderation. When your kids are playing on the computer suggest some fun websites that discuss good nutrition.
These are just a few of the many websites available that offer games and more concerning good nutrition habits.
Always include whole grains, fruits and vegetables on your grocery list.
Have a bowl of rinsed fresh fruits available for the quick grab. The easier it is, the more likely they’ll eat it.
Keeping a salad in the fridge or a platter of rinsed, chopped veges is a good idea too.
Take your kids with you when you shop at your local farmer’s market or grocery store. Let them try different fruits that appear to catch their eye.
Include your children whenever possible in food buying, cooking and gardening. Practice balance and moderation.