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  • Writer's pictureWellness Workdays

7 Food Behaviors to Model in the Home

modeling good food behavior for kids

Have you ever watched a small child discover something new? The simple curiosity and innocence is breathtaking. Their minds are fresh, untainted and ready to absorb whatever is presented to them. During the first five years of life, children's minds are rapidly developing.

Decades of research have demonstrated that a child’s environment during their earliest years can have effects that last a lifetime. This is why it is so important for adults to model the behavior that they want their children to follow, especially during the first several years of life. Food behavior is easily overlooked when raising a child, but should not be under-emphasized. As the children in your life learn about hunger, taste and satisfaction, try to keep these tips in mind.

  1. Lead by example. Let your children see you enjoy a variety of fresh and wholesome foods often.

  2. Try, try and try again. Research suggests that it may take about 15 tries for a baby to accept a new food. Try mixing new tastes and textures with ones that are already baby approved.

  3. Practice body positivity. Avoid judgmental words about food choices and body shapes. Have a conversation with your children at a young age that bodies come in all shapes and sizes.

  4. Avoid food shaming. Do not judge yourself, your children or anyone else about their personal food choices. If you are enjoying a “treat” together do not spend the next hour regretting the treat. Teach your little ones that some foods are nourishing for the body, and some foods are nourishing for the soul, but all foods are welcome in moderation.

  5. Let them help. Invite your children to participate in shopping, cooking and serving homemade meals. Participating in preparation often leads to a greater interest in trying new foods.

  6. Have your child eat what you eat. Avoid always relying on “kid food” like macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets to nourish your little one. Feeding children the same foods that adults are eating also saves time spent on cooking -- you don’t need to cook four different entrees for each meal. Remember that children’s portions should be smaller than adult-sized portions and that they don’t need to belong to the clean plate club.

  7. Create a positive experience around meal time. Unplug electronics, smile and talk with your children. Stay present and enjoy this special bonding time with your little ones.

Written by Jacqueline D’Attoma, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern. Learn more about Wellness Workdays and our wellness program offerings by downloading our brochure.

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