1. Labelling food
Lets start this one off by saying there are no bad foods! So if you’re labelling foods as good or bad, clean or toxic, you could be setting your child up to having a negative relationship with food. All foods have the potential of proving some nutrition to our bodies, and yes all foods can be incorporated into a healthy diet.
2. Using food as a punishment or reward
“Finish your dinner then you can have dessert”, “If you don’t behave you won’t get a cookie”
Sound familiar? There are a few reasons why this can backfire on you and can undermine the healthy eating messages you should be teaching your child. By bribing with these treats you are demonstrating to them that these type of foods are to be desired.
Now you could be thinking, well what if I reward them with a healthy food. Let’s say your child loves strawberries. “If you behave, I’ll give you some strawberries”. This is also a bad idea as it can cause your child to develop negative association with strawberries, because you are giving them a condition (“behaving”) to being able to eat it. Healthy food should be readily available to your child. If you need to use a bribe for encouraging a behaviour change look for non-food ideas, whether it’s a simple praise, or a special day out with a parent.
3. Making judgemental comments about bodies
Whether it’s about your own body or someone else’s body, making comments about bodies in front of your child can cause them to develop their own body image issues. It also teaches them to judge others based on their body size.
It needs to be said here that if you are on your own weight loss journey, try and avoid discussing it but if it comes up make sure conversations are weight-neutral, that means, avoid talking about your weight and body image. If you are overly restrictive with your diet, your child will probably notice, so re-think your strategy. There is very strong evidence that children who grow up in homes where a parent is a life long dieter, are more likely to develop an eating disorder.
And please, for the love of everything that is good in this world, do not call your child fat!
4. Making them eat everything on their plate
Children are actually very intuitive when it comes to their hunger and appetite cues. So by telling them to continue eating when they have had enough is basically telling them to ignore these cues.
Forcing your child to eat can be traumatic for them and can develop into a negative relationship with food. Trust your child’s ability to self regulate their eating!
5. Making certain foods off limits
When something is off limits, it often becomes more desirable. Not only that, but if your child does get a hold of this food, they will eat it in secret, which can lead to a binge eating disorder later down the track. Teaching them balance from the get go is key.
6. Being a fussy eater
Our children are very observant, so if they see their parent open to a variety of foods they are more likely to as well. So lead by example and enjoy a wide variety of foods and flavours and your child will pick up on that.