Hi there! If this is the first Blog of mine you’re reading then Welcome!
Let me fill you in….
The concept I’m discussing with you all at the moment is resilient kids and how we raise them in these busy times. Please read my previous two Blogs as I’m unpacking the 10 Resilience Building Blocks, a model created by Maggie Dent.
Before we go into that though I’d like to share one of many quotes I’ve come across. I find these gems simple and thought provoking.
“Thirty years of research tells us that resilient people are happier, live longer and are more successful in school and jobs, are happier in relationships and are less likely to suffer depression.”
- K. Reivich and A. Shatte, The Resilience Factor (2002)
You want that for your kids.
Todays “chat” will cover Building Block number 2 - Good Nutrition.
Food has always played a large role in my life. It most likely has everything to do with my Mediterranean origins. I can easily say that I LOVE FOOD and I have many fond memories from childhood which involve getting together with friends and family and enjoying a wonderful feast of Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine. Aaaahhh bliss……
The food we ate was fresh and whole, without hidden sugars, wheat, preservatives and general nasties. I also remember that the only form of “junk food” which was available to us growing up was fish & chips, and sometimes on a winters day in high school, my friends and I would get hot chips to share as we walked home.
Now, it appears that there is an abundance of choices available for takeaway and cafe/ restaurant eating and it plays a more regular role in our day to day living. Again, I allude to “these busy times” with both parents working full-time with no time to “scratch themselves”.
Let’s get down to it…….
At a time in their lives when they are constantly growing and learning, good nutrition will support children’s neuron development, increase brain integration and improve their mood and behaviour. I’m actually not going to talk about food pyramids or what you should or shouldn’t feed your kids. There is a plethora of advice and information out there about all that. Plus, we are much more aware as a society about foods, good and not so good. Additives and colourings seem to be in an awful lot of foods nowadays. Here’s a list of some to avoid: 102, 4R, 124, 110, 122, 104, 129 & 211.
Again, I know that you folks out there are really savvy to this stuff and I’m more interested in how we approach the subject of food and nutrition with our kids.
Here’s some great tips I’ve gathered during my research….
Firstly, kids don’t start to grasp abstract concepts until the age of 11 or 12, so keep it simple eg. Eat lots of different foods each day and different colours too. “Sometimes” and “everyday” foods makes sense to children. Perhaps don’t talk about avoiding diabetes or chronic diseases or recommended portion sizes or healthy weight, low-fat or low-sugar. Keep the talk about present rather than long term effects of eating healthy. Kids don’t usually sit around wondering about their heart health in 30 years time. Eg. Eating healthy food will help you to be strong, well and full of energy so you can swing on the monkey bars.
Food is linked to memory pathways and can influence us in adulthood. I know this is true for me. A good example is eating a certain Greek dish and “flashing back” to one of many family gatherings such as Greek Easter. So, we don’t want to create an unpleasant memory for our kids relating to food. Try not to use the term ‘good” and “bad” food. I think this sentence may be alluding to feelings of guilt around food too.
There is one aspect of eating whilst growing up that I think instilled a habit I have found near impossible to break. Did you guess it? Yep, the classic “finish everything on your plate”.
I spent most of my life “emptying” my plate, even if I was satisfied half way through the meal. It’s quite an effort now to leave food on my plate without feeling guilty and wasteful. Now, I’m retraining myself to put less on my plate.
This leads me to 4 fabulous tips in Maggie Dent’s book “Real kids in an unreal world”:
Allow young children to "‘graze’ on healthy foods, rather than eat to adult time schedules.
Avoid telling children to clean their plate.
Avoid making children eat when they are not hungry.
Keep portion sizes moderate, regardless of age.
Through my children’s growing years, I struggled with '“are they eating enough?”, “don’t force them to clean their plate”, “is it ok for them to miss a meal because they’re not hungry?”. So many concerns, so much pressure!!!!
I’ll let you in on a secret about all that. They know when they’re hungry and they’ll eat then. They grow up to recognise signs of hunger, instead of eating out of habit, boredom or whatever else is going on. My kids have a healthier relationship with food than I do, and I’m happy about that.
Helping our kids to learn restraint around certain treats will help build a concept of foods that should only be eaten in moderation.
Involve your kids in the growing (if possible) and preparation of food. As well as being fun, it’s helping them to develop healthy habits for life. Whenever I go for walks in mine and other neighbourhoods, I see nearly every primary school has a veggie patch now. It’s lovely for the kids to have something to nurture and care for and to reap the benefits of all their care. Kids love growing things. It’s like magic! :)
Eating together as a family helps to build on your family’s connectedness and is the strongest way for you to be a great role model for your kids and their eating habits.
The last 2 points are also about ritual for me. Sharing the preparation and eating meals together is something that will stick with your kids as they grow to be adults. I still have 2 adult kids at home and continue to find that the best conversations are often had when we prepare a meal together and/ or sit down together to have a meal. This is something we can pass on to future generations. So very important in this world of rushed meals, sports commitments, electronic devices and television interfering with quality family time. How’s this for a neat bit of info.(?) Apparently families that eat meals together are associated with children who eat more fruit and veggies. How good is that?
I belong to a wonderful FB group as a result of purchasing my most favourite new love, my Thermomix! One of the ladies in this group owns a local business called Little Organics. You may recall that I have adult kids now, but I was so impressed with Doan’s vision that I feel compelled to share this. I know how you young Mum’s just love things organic for your wee ones!
Check it out: www.littleorganics.com.au
It saddens me to hear about young, primary age children having issues around body image. When did it become so hard to be a little kid? :(
What else can we do as caring adults to help guide our future generations to happier and healthier lives?
Please stay in touch and let me know your biggest challenges. I would love to help!
My next Blog in this series will be about Safe nurturing care within the family circle. Join me! Until then…….. :)
I love helping families feel happier! If you would like to chat about how I can help you, and you live in Melbourne, follow this link to my “Contact Me” page.
This piece is written with the intention of helping parents create happier and more resilient children and is subject to copyright. Please contact the author if you wish to publish elsewhere.