Shaping positive eating behaviours

  1   Teaching kids positive eating behaviours during childhood can set them up with healthy eating habits for life. Developing a positive relationship with food, as well as a balanced approach to eating, can lead to better health outcomes in the long run. Nowadays, an alarming 25 per cent of Australian children are being classified as overweight or obese1. This is the direct result of a number of behaviours including 1,2: Higher than recommended consumption of ‘occasional’ or ‘extra’ foods that are high in added fat, sugar and salt, especially fried potatoes, sugar-sweetened soft drinks, ice cream, cordials, meat pies and margarine. Lower than recommended consumption of fruit and vegetables. More food being purchased away from the home (e.g. take away). Evening meals being eaten in front of the television. In increase in screen time (iPads, TV, computers). A decrease in the amount of incidental activity such as walking to and from school. A drop in outdoor playtime. What can parents do? Parents often underestimate their role in the development of healthy eating habits. Speaking positively to your children about healthy foods and role modelling balanced eating is the first step in helping kids develop a healthy relationship with food. And remember, actions speak louder than words! Children watch, listen and learn through observation, and then follow what they see. Set your children up for life by being a positive role model and create healthy habits from the start. How? Enjoy all foods in moderation. Don’t binge on ’occasional’ or ‘extra’ foods. Cook meals at home and try to encourage your children to help you. Involve your kids in the menu planning and shopping, too. Talk about healthy foods from the five food groups and what they do for your body. For instance, “this apple is so crunchy and delicious – it’s flesh is helping to keep me stay regular and it’s filling me up with its nutritious sweetness.” Or “these carrot sticks contain a super nutrient called beta carotene that helps my eyes stay sharp and focused. Or “this delicious glass of milk contains calcium – it helps my bones and teeth stay strong.” Ensure your child’s diet is balanced and contains a variety of foods from all the five food groups. Encourage your kids to eat a nutritious breakfast every day using foods from the five food groups. Encourage water instead of soft drink and or other drinks containing added sugars. Toss in lemon or lime wedges to flavour water. Avoid negative language around less healthy foods such as ‘bad’ or ‘fattening’. It’s not the type of food that’s bad, it’s the amount and how often the food is eaten that can be problematic. Instead, refer to these foods as “occasional” or “extra” foods and keep portion sizes small.