Hello! This is my first interview from a series of talks I'll be posting monthly about motherhood-related topics. I have been working on this for a while now and I'm excited to finally share it with you.
This time I spoke with Anahi from Healthy Harmony, she is a certified health coach that has been working lately with parents that want to help their kids build a better relationship with food. This does not only mean that they eat everything you put on their plate but also respect their wants and needs while focusing on their health.
The interview is in Spanish, but if you keep reading, you can find a summary of the most important things we discussed.
What does having a good relationship with food mean?
It means eating without feeling guilty, and knowing when to stop by listening to your own body and what it is trying to tell you.
For kids, if we teach them young how to do this, they will have a healthier lifestyle as adults. We can start as soon as they are able to sit on their own high chair.
We can start teaching them to listen to their own bodies and respond to how they feel (this means not forcing them to finish their plate). Having an appropriate schedule for eating, exposing them to a variety of foods, and enjoying meals together are a few things you can start doing today.
Is there a method you think it works better when starting giving table food to your baby?
It depends on the parents.
If you do baby-led weaning, you get to expose your baby to a variety of foods at a very young age, and you give them the freedom to choose, they also get to discover food with their hands (texture). This is also a very practical method because you don't need to cook something different for the baby, if it is safe and approved by your pediatrician, you can give your baby the same food you cook for the rest of the family.
You can do a combination of both, baby food and some soft pieces of food you feel comfortable giving him.
About junk food...
First of all, when we talk about food and our kids, we need to understand we as parents have some responsibilities and the kids have another.
As parents, we get to decide what they eat and when. This means we put the food on his plates and we decide the best schedule according to their age and family dynamics.
Kids decide how much they eat.
It is a big challenge for us; we need to learn to respect their decision and also be sure they are eating healthy. Some of the tips Anahi gives us:
Always include one of his favorite foods on his plate, this way you make sure he is eating something.
Remember that kids, especially toddlers can eat A LOT one day and very little the next, this is just how it is.
Why let them pick what and how much from their plate?
We are all born with an innate ability to know how much we need to eat, as adults, we force our kids by saying things like: "Come on, one more bite" or "You won't get dessert if you don't finish your plate". Or we give them a snack every time they ask for one (let's be honest, that can happen at least every 30 minutes).
So, what do we say when they ask for snacks?
If your toddlers keeps asking for food in between meals, you can say something like this: "This is not time for eating a snack, we can wait 30 minutes for lunch"
Or, if he keeps asking for junk food: "Right now is time for this food, I can include that on your next snack".
Also, if junk food is too restricted, they will just crave it more. Be sure to include every now and then his favorite foods and treat all food as equal (there is no bad and good food). Try to avoid using junk food as a prize or reward.
Avoid health speeches while eating, this will cause too much pressure on your kid and meals should be a moment to enjoy food together.
Offer a variety of foods and let them see that we include those in our meals too, they should notice that we actually enjoy eating those.
For picky eaters, make sure they always have a favorite food on their plates or on the table.
Offer new foods or the ones they dislike in different presentations.
Try to have a "family style" meal at least once a day, this means, having all food at the center of the table so they can decide what to put on their plates. (Do not stress if they only pick one thing).
Enjoy meals with your kids, remember yours and their responsibility.