Prof Jennie Brand-Miller answers your questions.
I watch my sister struggling to get her almost 3-year-old son to eat fruits and vegetable, or any healthy food really. I am just about to introduce my baby to solids. I don’t want to go through what she is dealing with. Have you any tips to help me?
Children have evolved to mimic their parent’s behaviour, and they are watching you more carefully than you would ever know. If you eat it, they will want to too. If you eat a balanced diet, they will too. Being a good role model applies to eating, exercising and all aspects of your behaviour, and food habits that are adopted early on, are difficult to alter later. If you flavour everything with salt, they will grow to prefer salty food. If you over-sweeten, then they expect food to taste extremely sweet. If you expect them to eat everything on their plate, then they learn to ignore internal satiety signals. They will learn to eat until they feel uncomfortably full.
But it’s not easy in today’s world to confine your children’s food intake to only the healthiest foods. Children’s parties are common, family celebrations are occasions that call for special foods. The best way to handle these situations is not to deny your children, but to teach them that ‘party foods are for parties’. They should not be part of your normal pantry. Ice creams, soft drinks, cakes and biscuits, French fries and potato crisps are all indulgence foods. A little indulgence is a good thing, but make sure it’s just that – a little indulgence.
One of the best ways of teaching your child to love healthy foods is to involve them in the preparation of the meal and even growing them in your garden. Young children can tear up various types of lettuce (and a little food sampling won’t hurt), and when they are old enough, they can help you draw a funny face with carrots, raisins and apple slices. Books dedicated to cooking with children can be a real delight. You’ll find it one of most enjoyable and rewarding ways of spending quality time with children. By the time they are old enough to be safe in a kitchen, you could insist that they prepare at least one family meal a week.
This is an edited extract from my latest book (with Dr Kate Marsh and Prof Robert Moses), The Bump to Baby Low GI Eating Plan for Conception, Pregnancy and Beyond (Hachette Australia) and in the US and Canada: The Low GI Eating Plan for an Optimal Pregnancy (The Experiment). You can visit us HERE.
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