We’ve all been fed bad diet advice at some point in our lives, usually with negative consequences. But what about the diet advice we feed our kids? Is it healthy, constructive, inspiring? Are we setting them up for nutritional success or failure?
These are questions we should be asking ourselves when raising a child. The diet examples we set for our kids and the words we use to guide them will no doubt affect their relationship with food. Unfortunately, just one poor example or one piece of bad advice can cause a flurry of negative results.
While there’s a descent amount of truth out there regarding kids and diet, there’s also a lot of bogus advice. This is especially sad considering this is such a crucial time for our nation amidst a childhood obesity epidemic.
A recent study suggested that kids should simply eat off smaller plates to avoid obesity. This isn’t terrible advice, per say, but eating off a smaller plate isn’t going to solve the problem. Kids need to develop a healthy understanding of food as nutrition instead of learning little “tricks” to hopefully divert them from health disasters.
Our own Mary Hartley, RD has done much research on the topic and we’ve asked her to weigh in, sharing the 15 worst pieces of diet advice we’ve ever fed our kids.
1. Kids can eat “kid’s food.” (i.e. mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, etc.)
2. If a kid won’t eat dinner, then you should fix him or her something else.
3. Children don’t need an eating schedule.
4. Children should influence purchasing decisions at the supermarket.
5. Sugary cereal is not that bad. We disagree.
6. It’s healthy for toddlers to drink juice – or squeezable fruit – in between meals. Instead, dilute juice with water and keep it to 1/2 cup per day.
7. It’s OK to eat fast food more often than not.
8. Good behavior can be rewarded with food. Candy-free potty training anyone?
9. It’s fine to have junk food in the house. (cookies, snack cakes, ice cream, chips, etc.) If the temptation is there, poor choices will likely follow.
10. Hurts can be soothed with food. Soothe hurts with love instead.
11. Kids don’t need to drink milk. Controversial issue or not, there’s still plenty of evidence that milk does the (little) body good.
12. Children don’t need to learn how to cook. Something we, and Tyler Florence, are most passionate about!
13. Sugar desserts are part of dinner. (Acceptable dessert = fruit and/or yogurt)
14. Snacking goes with movies. Why not try a few of these healthy snack ideas, if you must snack at all?
15. Breastfeeding is unnecessary. A topic we’ve touched on many times before, and a practice that nearly all medical professionals would agree is extremely beneficial for childhood development.
Bear in mind, this is not the full list nor the perfect list. But let it be a reminder to be conscious of the examples you set for your kids regarding diet. Are you teaching them food is a reward? Are they consuming more sugar than vegetables? Is McDonald’s your dinner table more often than your own? If the answer is ‘yes, yes and yes,’ don’t be overwhelmed, just pick one area and start from there. After all, nutrition starts young and if we can start laying a healthy foundation today, our children are far more likely to succeed tomorrow.