5 Food Tips for new parents

These days, being a new parent is so complicated.  New moms and dads are bombarded with guilt-inducing messages about ways to supposedly make baby perfectly safe, perfectly brilliant and perfectly healthy.  Perfect nutrition plays into all 3 categories: organic food, the perfect mix of nutrients for intellectual development, complete avoidance of any demonized food or ingredient.

Having observed my own children and their friends growing up, along with clients (both children and parents), I’ve come up with a simplified list of recommendations.  Here are 5 tips that give parents of young children the most long term health bang for your parental buck:

  1. Never give food as a comfort or a reward.  Do not pacify your whiny child in the store with a cookie or candy.  Don’t give your child ice cream for cleaning up his or her room.  This is a very bad habit to create.  If you child needs comforting, give her a hug, not sweets.
  2. Do Not Buy Soda Pop.  I don’t care how it’s sweetened.
  3. Model good eating habits.  Serve and eat salads, vegetables and fruit.  Even if your kid refuses to eat them, he sees you eating them, and learns that including vegetables or fruit at a meal is normal behavior.  A friend used to say to her vegetable-hating son: “Oh, that’s grown-up food.  You’ll like that better when you’re a grow-up.”  What kid doesn’t want to be a grown-up?
  4. Don’t let young kids make too many food decisions.  If your 5 year old is hungry for a snack, say “Here’s your snack: milk, banana, crackers”.  Period.  Do not say “What would you like?”  You will immediately be tangled in an endless argument about why ice cream or cookies or chips are the only possible snack choice.
  5. Do NOT model dieting behaviors to young children.  They do NOT need to hear parents obsessing about weight.  Anyone’s weight.  They do not need to hear “I’m too fat.  She’s too fat.  You’re too fat, so you can’t eat that.  Mommy can’t eat that because she’s on a diet.  I need to lose weight.”  You get the picture.

The best thing you can do as a parent is serve a reasonable variety of healthy food in appropriate portions, establish reasonably predictable family meal times, and enjoy what you eat.  Don’t underestimate the effect of modeling good eating behaviors.

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