The diet culture that we live in extends beyond ourselves and into the lives of our children. With all of the confusion parents face as they struggle to raise healthy, capable children, do we even know what ‘normal’ eating is anymore?
We live in a society saturated with information overwhelm. New diet trends and news reports circulate at a pace faster than we can keep up with. But it’s more than just overwhelm. It’s a deep-rooted fear that we will somehow harm our child if we do not feed them the “right” foods.
Food has become moralized, an issue between right and wrong rather than enjoyment and nurturing pleasure.
When disease is linked with food, with chemicals, additives, dyes, preservatives, added sugars, saturated fat, and all the like, food becomes unsafe. Feeling like you can raise a healthy child begins to feel impossible, like a battle of polarized options that never find a middle ground.
So you follow the rules, the guides, the advice of well-meaning pediatricians, nutritionists, health food experts. But when the rules just don’t seem to fit with your lifestyle, are overwhelming to follow, cause guilt or shame, or simply strip you of joy and satisfaction, what good are they then?
How do you deal with a child who doesn’t like their vegetables or only wants to eat desserts and sweets? How do you navigate birthday parties, Halloween candy, or the overwhelming cereal aisle?
Parents, you are not alone in these struggles or questions. Here’s why:
THE DEFINITION OF HEALTHY IS CONFUSING.
Perhaps part of the confusion is in the definition of what “healthy” is, as we have sadly muddled this word with diet trends, fads, and misinformation. Maybe what being healthy means is normalizing the process of eating, neutralizing all food as potentially nourishing for our bodies.
FOOD FEEDS BOTH THE BODY AND SOUL.
Remember that good nutrition is more than just getting your kids to eat their vegetables or avoid eating certain foods entirely; rather, by encouraging a normal relationship with food, you will help your little one build a sturdy foundation that will benefit them for years to come. When you are questioning your abilities or worried about doing what’s right, know that you are doing an amazing job at this whole parenting thing, simply because you care.
HEAL YOUR OWN THOUGHTS AROUND FOOD FIRST.
You will only have the capacity to instill this within them as you model normal eating patterns within your own life. There is joy in nourishment, and food is meant to be an extension of how you nurture yourself, a pleasurable aspect of how you care for and connect with those you love. So when the outside noise becomes overwhelming, learn to tune it out and turn up the volume of your own innate wisdom.
Because you already know what’s best for those children who think the world of you.
Adapted from the original article.
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Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a San Diego-based private practice dietitian helping others embrace their health for themselves and their loved ones. Focusing on maternal/child health and eating disorders, Crystal creates the nurturing, safe environment that is needed to help guide individuals towards a peaceful relationship with food and their bodies.