Anyone who has lived the healthy life knows it’s a mind game. Anyone who has failed at a diet or given up a week after New Year’s knows there is a connection between how we think and how healthfully we live our lives. Our children are no different.
Expert momma and nutritionist Yvette Quantz gives us the foundation for keeping our children’s minds and bodies healthy from the word go. And, yes, it starts as soon as they begin consuming food.
The first rule is simple — don’t stress. “Start with offering a variety of foods but not stressing over if they choose to eat it or not,” Quantz says.
Quantz is the mother of two and a registered dietician with Acadiana Nutrition Group, which provides “individual nutrition services for people who want to live better and feel better.” Quantz’s approach to nutrition in the mommahood is perhaps best explained in that tagline for her business. Food is about exploration for kids and about how it makes them feel.
“Let them taste and explore and teach them that what you fill your body and mind with is important in the way you live. It’s not only the foods we eat and how they make us feel but what we read and what we watch. What friends we spend time with and who lifts us up,” she says. “The food we eat directly impacts how we feel about ourselves and how we share the gifts we’ve been given in this world.”
Offer children healthy choices but don’t label foods inherently good or bad.
Avoid making food the reward from even the youngest age. Don’t ban a certain food or restrict calories. Food battles leave no winners. Digging your heels in when it comes to eating can create defiance and cause children to resist even more.
Healthy children come from healthy parents. Living healthfully is perhaps the greatest example to children of how to eat and exercise.
“It is good to take charge and ownership of our health but not to the point where we are obsessed or commenting on other people’s bodies,” Quantz says.
It’s a balancing act, but it all begins with teaching children to observe how different foods make them feel rather than how it will impact their waistline.
For example, at 9 years old, Quantz’s oldest daughter is starting to get that food can empower us to live better rather than focusing on a number on a scale.
“Do I focus better and do I think better?” Quantz asks. “She notices that when she has eggs for breakfast [something with more protein], she thinks better.” — AJH