Hi there, it's Finley, and Happy Friday to almost 400 parents this week.
Today's story takes 5 minutes to read.
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Green ≠ Gross
I'm a grown man but I still have a deep hatred for one very specific food.
I detest green beans.
The site. The smell. The taste. The texture. I hate them with the energy of 10,000 suns.
My wife loves them. I don't care.
My friends say I've never had them cooked properly. That's false too.
Why do I despise them so much? Well, because my parents forced me to eat them as a child.
Today we laugh about it all but I have deep emotional wounds from eating them as a young child (ok, that's pretty overstated).
But what about you? Do you have food fights and struggles with your children at home? It is common in more homes than you might realize.
Parents feel all kinds of pressure, feeding their children every day.
- You want food to contribute to a happy home.
- You desire healthy food habits in their life to start early.
- You are competing against big brand marketing efforts.
- You feel pressed for time and have low energy most days.
My wife and I run a fitness membership for women called B•TRIBAL•FIT.
We have also coached couples, helping them overhaul their food habits for their family. One of our major influences has been Precision Nutrition and their deep health approach.
The following ideas are how they suggest parents help fight nutrition anxiety in kids.
We struggled to help our kids eat in a more nutritious way for years! We've had fights and tears. Sent kids to bed hungry and fixed three dinners in one night. We got some right and a lot wrong.
But, seeing our kids food choices now as high school and college students, I'm happy for the investment we made, but it wasn't without a lot of struggle.
Do you experience family food fights? Write me back and I'd love to hear more.
7 Ways to Fight Nutrition Anxiety in Kids
1. Know what's your job and what is your child's job
Making it clear who gets to decide what takes some confusion out of food planning and mealtime. It also gives kids some needed sense of autonomy.
- Shop for food
- Prepare the food
- Make eating times enjoyable
- Provide meals at regular times
- Decide whether to eat
- Decide how much to eat
- Decide which of the foods they will eat
*these change with age as your child gains more personal autonomy
2. Be a role model
Just like kids copy your words, they also mimic your behavior. They even pay more attention to what you show than what you say. So, explore your own attitude and decisions around food.
- Eat meals at the table undistracted
- Be open and curious about new foods
- Focus on foods that are nutritious and make your body feel good
3. Explore food feelings
Make sure kids feel safe to communicate worries and anxiety around food. There is often fear about trying something new because of the unknown. Security is a #1 priority for kids and the idea of bad or gross food creates mental insecurity.
Reasons for uncomfortable food feelings:
- Being teased at school for "unhealthy" or "too healthy" lunches
- Feeling weird or left out for certain cultural food choices
- Family pressure to eat and enjoy certain foods
- Body image pressure tied to daily food intake
4. Connect food to superpowers
Kids are more likely to embrace good food choices if they know why it matters and if it's delivered in a way that is relevant to them.
- Protein-rich food likes eggs, fish and beans help your muscles get stronger.
- Good carbs like squash, sweet potatoes and brown rice give you energy to play hard.
- Colorful fruits and veggies like spinach, blueberries, and broccoli keep your eyes healthy and keep you from getting sick.
5. Ask for input
Sometimes picky eating is less about food than control. Asking for kids' ideas ensures you'll buy food they like, plus it gives them a sense of contribution.
- Come over here and help me place this online food order.
- Let's take look at all the vegetables and pick out one you'd like to try.
- Will you look through this cookbook and find a new recipe you'd like our family to eat soon?
6. Avoid moralizing food choices
Talking about foods in terms of "good" and "bad" complicates a persons relationship with food. It can lead to shame, performance, and approval seeking.
Instead of labeling, try:
- Talking about the purpose of the food you eat: is this for pleasure, coping, or to be strong?
- Sharing your feelings after a meal. Did you overeat because it was extra yummy or not eat because you weren't hungry? Both are normal.
7. Take the pressure off
Families eat A LOT of meals together... so go ahead and throw out the "perfect family meal" expectation. Colorful plates, everyone getting along, and eating at a set dinner time can happen. But hoping it will always happen is silly. Roll with change, keep it as a family value and it will balance over time.
Real life is:
- Kids going through phases of eating more and less
- Encourage trying new things, but some kids are "super-tasters" and are exceptionally sensitive to flavors.
- Kids are visual, so different prep may help. Sliced, grated, sautéd and roasted are all different in a child's eyes.
- Appetites vary for each kid. Some are hungry right after school and not at dinner time. Don't force your appetite on everyone.
**Let each of your kids select ONE veggie that they have a lifetime ban on. They get to choose it, declare it and then never have to eat it if it's served to them.
If they ever discover they hate something more then they may choose change, however they have to eat a bowl of their previously banned veggie in a declaration of their new allegiance.
I got this idea from Jon Acuff off a podcast once and loved it.
Bonus: Healthy Lunch Ideas