Encouraging a Health Relationship with Food at School
Having a healthy relationship with food means enjoying the pleasure of eating while also paying attention to internal cues such as hunger, fullness, and satisfaction.
We're all born as intuitive eaters. You know this if you've ever tried to feed a toddler who's been in love with carrots all week and now decides that she hates carrots.
But somewhere along the line between toddling and trying to feed yourself as an adult, those internal cues can become silent...or you start second-guessing them, or ignore them.
And I bet, you started feeling distracted from those internal cues about the time you started school. Sound familiar?
Here's how it typically plays out.
Kids start to make their own connections with food and eventually their bodies while they're also starting to socialize outside of the parent/care giver's bubble. They start being influenced by what their peers are eating or not eating. What food messages are a part of the cartoons or videos they like to watch? Even how their teachers connect to food and nutrition will influence a kiddo's relationship with food.
I have talked with many clients who share their first experiences of learning that some foods where bad/unhealthy while others were good/healthy. In many cases, this information came from their teachers, the school food service, or even activity coaches at a very young age.
Don't get me wrong, I have yet to meet a youth educator/coach that didn't have the best intentions for their students/players. And it's with a ton of compassion that I realize their education of what healthy food is, is going to come with their personal food bias. However, this can become problematic when it's even slightly different than what the child is used to hearing at home.
So, how can you as a parent or caregiver who wants your child to establish a healthy relationship, a neutral relationship with food, encourage the same messaging when your child is at school or other activities outside of the home?
The easiest way is to express your desires for food neutrality in the classroom during a parent/caregiver - teacher conference. Another tool created by The Feeding Doctor that works well is filling out a "lunch box card" HERE and including it with your child's lunch. That way the pressure is off the kiddo to advocate for themselves and still gives the teacher an opportunity to understand your wishes for food neutrality.
If you'd like to learn more about how to support food neutrality at home or school and how to keep your young'ns intuitive eating for life, here are some additional resources that you may find helpful:
Born To Eat by Leslie Shilling RDN and Wendy Jo Peterson RDN
The Ellyn Satter Institute or any of Ellyn Satter's RDN books on feeding in general
and for those who prefer listening vs. reading, check out this podcast episode by my wonderful colleague Paige Smathers RDN
Now, I'd love to hear what your experiences are with feeding the little humans in your life? Head on over to the Alpine Nutrition Facebook Page to continue this conversation. Looking forward to hearing from you there!