Remember this? “The responsibility of the parent is to determine what, when, and where children eat. It’s the child’s responsibility to determine whether they eat and how much they eat.”
When we get into the nitty gritty of your responsibilities with teaching your kids about nutrition and mindful eating, I would imagine that the what is the source of the majority of our questions or concerns. Hopefully we can help with that today! We’ll start with the “ideal” so we at least know where we are aiming.
When we decide what foods we will provide for our families, nutrient density should be at the front of our minds. Kids especially have little stomachs and we need to use that space as efficiently as possible! Nutrients that we want to emphasize include calories, carbs, protein, healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), vitamins and minerals. We want to reduce “empty” calories like unhealthy fats (saturated and trans fats) and added sugars, though these have their place too in “sometimes foods.” Don’t worry; there’s no guilt in kids having chips or candy for fun, but it’s important to not make it a habit. As an example, most candy has very few vitamins and minerals. While it may check the calorie, fat, and carb boxes, a glass of milk would do the same, but also check the protein, calcium, vitamin D and many more boxes!
It’s easy to think of kids as little adults, but their needs are different than ours. They need more calories per pound than us and more fat than we do. Just as an example, the average 3-4 year old child needs about 1,200 calories a day! I don’t know about you, but the numbers still amaze me even though I calculate them all the time. The recommendations for that calorie level would be about 1 cup of fruit, 1 ½ cups of veggies, 4 ounces of grains, 3 ounces of protein, and 2 ½ cups of dairy per day. If you want to know your specific child’s needs, let me know! It’s so fun for me to help families determine what their “ideals” are.
Obviously, “life” can get in the way and our kids often have different ideas in mind. That’s why the what of food is the responsibility of the parent, not the child. As the parent you are the food gatekeeper in your house. If you mostly buy and provide healthy foods, your children will have to eat mostly healthy foods! Don’t worry; you don’t need to go cold turkey. This week, pick one food item you could replace with a healthier option. Let me know how it goes or contact me if you need help finding a healthier replacement!