Respecting Your Child with Foodby Mamapumpkin
Posted on 20 June 2012
I never thought I’d see this day but finally, my 7 year old daughter has learnt about nutrition and eating healthy and I am one proud mother!
You see, there is a history…
As a child, I was ‘trained’ to eat sugar very early on and developed a sweet tooth. All my life, I’ve battled this problem, and it is a problem because not only do I have health issues with it (from excessive sugar - diabetes), it has also weakened my self-esteem due to the weight gain I’ve had because of it - 30 kilos from my ideal weight!
So when people started offering my first born SUGAR in the form of ice-cream, chocolate and fresh cream the moment she hit 6 months old as a baby, I was crushed. Because of my own battles with sugar, I had a plan to not offer them any sugar, or at least limit it to as little sugar as possible, till they inculcated some solid healthy taste buds. I know this could be done because I had a friend who never introduced candy and chocolate till her child was 3+ and today, the child declines any form of treats, and if she eats it at all, she only takes a bite. I actually know several people who’ve brainwashed their kids successfully into healthy eating and when I see the product of their kids today knowing full well how to eat healthy, I am well impressed.
Many parents who are currently over-loading their kids with sugars to make them happy or rather to shut them up, will immediately judge and begrudgingly comment, “Oh, what kind of a life is that for a kid?” or “What fun is it to be a kid without a lolly?”. I’m not saying your kid cannot have a treat at all, I’m saying give them a treat in other forms. It is important for kids to develop healthy eating habits and if you over-load them with sugar from the start, they will develop a sweet tooth. Why introduce a bad habit to the person you love most? Why increase their chances of death? Do they need these unnecessary sugars AT ALL??? NO. The answer is, no, they don’t. Not at all.
I saw a lady at the grocery store the other day and she kept asking her son (who was very clearly obese), which chocolate bun he wanted and to hurry up, get whatever chocolate he wanted so she could pay. I felt sorry for the boy. I really did. His own Mom was encouraging empty calories into his body when he clearly had weight issues but worse, he had no control, was lost and didn’t know any better.
If you as a mother, cannot stand not giving sugars at all, at least try to only start giving it to them after they are 3 years old. I am advocating for their longer and healthier life here!
So back to my story..
T1, my 7 year old, became a sugar addict after she was introduced ice-cream when she was 6 months old. It wasn’t only ice-cream that she was offered. Soon it was M&M chocolates, Hershey kisses, Magnum ice-cream sticks, Chuppa Chup lollipops, Cadbury, Godiva, you name it. And suddenly, at 5 years of age, she actually CRAVED sugar. She loved cake and chocolate to the point she expected these sugar fixes after every meal as dessert. She would even sulk when I denied her these food killers. Honestly, what benefit does junk add to your body? If you want a food treat sometimes, fine, but to have a food treat every day, think twice. Actually, think several times over.
Ever since I attended an Eat Well Class at the Fit For 2 Café, I have learnt that many a time, battling with bad food is an emotional issue. As an adult, it is still an on-going battle for me so why subject my kid to the same plight? My daughter has even attended these classes with me and is slowly but surely learning that eating healthy means being smart and I have learnt not to teach my kids, not to LINK food with emotions.
As a parent, our responsibility is to offer our kids great, nutritious, healthy food several times a day. Encourage eating but never force. If they eat, they eat. If they don’t, they don’t. No kid has ever gone hungry till they starved and died. Serve only what is served and if they don’t eat it at that given time, do not offer a substitute. Tell them that their next meal is dinner and if they don’t eat their tea, they would go hungry till dinner arrives. If dinner comes and they still didn’t want to eat it, don’t force them. They will eat at breakfast or lunch the next day. In fact, they will start appreciating what is being served! But if you force them into eating what is being served or force them to finish their food, you are not respecting them and they start associating food with a bad mood or anger. They start feeling resentful towards you, the parent who is forcing them to eat when they don’t feel like eating or forcing them to eat what they don’t like eating. Would you like it if you were forced to eat something you really didn’t like eating? What if you had a stomach ache and really didn’t feel like eating right now?
Once children associate food with mood, they will have the same problem I have with battling bad food because an emotion will be linked to food. Food should not be there to make you happy or sad. Food should be there to keep the machine going. Find other things to make you happy and better still, learn how to be happy just being.
For now, my daughter is no longer on a sugar crave. She is aware of healthy eating and eats very well. She still eats chocolates and candy but in limited doses. In fact, I give her the choice to make these days if she wants to eat the junk or not and more often than not, she will say no. She only says yes when it is really worth it to her. And that to me is an amazing milestone in our journey of responsible eating.
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