If a child consumes too many fatty, high-calorie and low-nutrient food items such as pizza, hamburgers, chips, sugary drinks (soda) and sweets, it’s usual to imagine that the problem lies not with the child but with the child’s caretaker, who is obviously permitting this behaviour. A common strategy is therefore to attempt to influence the child’s parents or caregiver by telling them to accept responsibility for restricting the amount of junk food a child is consuming and ensuring that the child has a healthier diet. Unfortunately, this approach does not work well if the caretaker finds it difficult to follow expert dietary advice.
Focus on the child
If attempts to influence a child’s caretaker do not achieve the desired results, it can be useful to shift focus from the caretaker to changing the child, using Kids’Skills to help them assume healthier eating habits.
Start by talking to other adults who care about the child about your desire to influence the child’s diet and ask them to support you in your undertaking by encouraging the child to learn better eating habits. It’s easier for you to motivate your child to favour healthier eating habits when both you and all the adults caring for them agree that developing healthy ways of eating is important.
Motivate with benefits
Avoid criticising children for eating in unhealthy ways but do take time to explain why learning to eat in healthy ways is important. When you’re doing this, don’t highlight all the negative consequences of unhealthy eating, talk instead about the benefits of healthy dietary habits. Spend time with your child working out a variety of healthy foods and healthy nutritional habits – making a list is a good start – and then let them decide which of the healthy habits on the list they want to learn.
Don’t criticise children for eating in unhealthy ways, praise them when they choose to eat healthily. Support the child by acting as a role model and adopt similar healthy eating habits yourself. You’ll find plenty of ideas on motivating children in the Kids’Skills guide.
Healthy eating habits
- Skill to make sure that the diet is diverse.
- Skill of keep a (predominantly) healthy diet.
- skill to prepare or cook healthy meals.
- Skill to make healthy choices.
- Skill to eat plenty of vegies and salads.
- Skill to drink water instead of soda.