For a kid these days, there seems to be food offered at every turn. Birthday parties, class parties, sports teams, celebrations, etc. — you get the point. Having kids learn about moderation at a young age helps them make balanced choices in a world where food is available to them 24/7. They do not have to eat just because the food is there (i.e. soccer snacks, friend’s houses) — they learn to eat when they are actually hungry and stop when they are full.
As a parent and an ambassador for The Together CountsTM program, here are some techniques that help me teach my kids about moderation:
1. Talk about food
We spend a lot of time talking about the different kinds of foods we eat and how they benefit our bodies. We talk about the various differences in the nutrients of food and how they play a role in our growing bodies. I considered it a parenting success this summer when we went to a hotel breakfast with limited options and my kids wanted to know why there weren’t very many protein choices!
They love snacks, so I keep a bin of wholesome snacks in my fridge and they are welcome to choose whenever they feel hungry.
2. Permission to enjoy.
My kids love everything related to cake or cookies, so when we go to a party or special celebration, I tell them it is ok to make their own choices. If they want to fill a plate full with cookies they do not get any judgment from me. I have found more often than not, they always pick out some balanced choices while enjoying the treats on the side. If I made those treats off-limits, they would be more likely to want MORE and/or sneak them. I give them the green light to have cake and they know they can have as much as they want. I know it sounds like a strange idea at first, but most kids eventually learn to listen to their own bodies and stop when they are full.
3. Eat at the table
How many times have you sat down on the couch with snack and a few hours later discovered you devoured more than you had intended? Same goes for kids. One big rule in my house is that all eating must be done at the table. This keeps kids focused on enjoying their food and eating until they are full.
4. Lead by example
Kids will do as they see, not as you say. If you model moderation behavior this becomes their norm. This applies not only to food, but in all areas of life! The next time you are eating, pay attention to when you feel full and stop eating right there. Most times, we all have something left in our bowl but we eat it anyway simply because it is there. Take a pause, consider saving for leftovers and know that you can always enjoy it another day.
Lisa is a former personal trainer who now tries to maintain fitness (and sanity) while raising 4 little boys. She blogs about health and fitness for busy parents on Workout Mommy.