Many Americans have an unhealthy relationship with food. For over a decade, I’ve worked in the Wellness industry for Mayo Clinic, I see the continued trends and increases in overweight and obese people throughout our country – it’s disturbing! Most concerning to me, is that many of these trends were being seen in children.
Investments to thwart these trends have traditionally been directed toward adults. Through sponsored programs from our companies or health insurance carriers and even some government funded initiatives, we’ve been able to curb trends for adults through diet and fitness programs; however I consider these programs to be modestly successful. And while children are getting more information at school about healthy eating, if it is not reinforced in the home, it’s insignificant.
I believe the best remedy to conquer these disturbing trends is parent-lead “Food IQ” in the home. Not only do the adults benefit, the children grow up with healthy habits that last a lifetime. If a child’s relationship with food is already healthy and balanced, the likelihood of facing overweight challenges as an adult can be mitigated.
To achieve this goal, families must make a conscious choice that food is a priority. Teaching and practicing food IQ is a daily discipline. I am NOT advocating a diet that restricts intake on specific foods or counting calories, I am advising mindfulness in our food choices and striving balance. Goodness knows, I’m known to eat an entire banana loaf or take more then my tummy can handle, from time to time!
Here are some basic tips to work with your children on food IQ:
• Eat as a family without media distractions
• Buy “ChooseMyPlate” dishes for your kids to teach food groups.
• If kids want a snack or eat anytime during the day, tell them they can have unlimited fresh fruit and vegetables – it’s nearly impossible to overeat
• Ensure at least 5 fruits and vegetables are eaten everyday. At dinner, ask your family how many they ate and what ones.
• Use visual cues for portions. Baseball = vegetable portion, Tennis ball = fruit portion, hockey puck = carbohydrate, 4 dice = dairy, deck of cards = protein, 2 dice = fat.
• It’s ok to splurge, just not everyday. Allow your kids to overindulge once in awhile. Be sure draw their attention how they feel after they splurge, it helps associate that uncomfortable feeling with that decision. Paying attention to these lessons helps them learn on their own and develops intrinsic awareness.
Here’s the tricky part. As a parent, you set the example, so discuss Food IQ with your kids, but more importantly, practice it. After all, you are what you eat!