As parents, one of the main challenges faced when raising children is encouraging them to eat well. While there are are a number of ways to get your little ones munching on their brussels sprouts, many parents remain divided over which way is best.
Some choose to hide or disguise the ‘good-for-them’ ingredients in their children’s every day meals, happy to have their little ones munch away none-the-wiser. Others take a bolder approach, offering an incentive-based system for finishing their greens, with the no-dessert policy once such popular practise.
But for one celebrity mother, keeping her kids healthy comes at a price.
The latest in a string of famous mums put under the spotlight for their childrearing approach to their kids diet, model Heidi Klum has this week confessed to bribing her four children to eat well.
Leni, eight, Henry, seven, Johan, six, and Lou, three, all receive a monetary incentive to down a daily healthy smoothie.
“We make an effort every morning – we peel pineapples, apples, lemons, bananas, kiwis, ginger and berries and we make delicious smoothies,” the 39-year-old mother and supermodel said in an interview.
“Some of my kids don’t love it so I decided I would pay them a dollar if they finish their drink. All of the money goes into their piggy banks; they have collected a bunch of money since January 1. What’s good for them is good for me as well,” Klum added.
While we applaud Klum’s efforts to keep her kids healthy, her announcement had us weighing up the risks associated with such an approach to food.
It is well documented that fostering a healthy relationship with food early on can be integral to protecting children from developing food phobias and eating disorders later on in life. But by placing too much emphasis on what they’re eating, could we be helping kids develop negative feelings toward food?
Until recently, eating disorders had been rare in children; unfortunately this is no longer the case. Alarmingly, eating disorders have been increasing substantially in children under 12. While the focus of these diseases is often on food, body shape and body image, theses symptoms are nearly always masking underlying issues.
Likewise, children with food phobias or ‘tricky eaters’ have been documented to use food as a means of control. (It’s important to note that sometimes selective eating in children and adults is usually not the result of food preferences, but could be manifesting hidden anxieties.)
So how do we encourage kids to stay healthy without giving them a complex about food?
While no two children are the same, we know that all kids are great imitators. Parents and other influential adults like family, friends and teachers can all play a role in promoting a positive example. Helping children foster a healthy relationship with food should be the focus.
Here are a few dos and don’ts to encourage a positive relationship to food:
– Don’t crash diet and don’t try to put your child on a diet.
– Don’t label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – this can establish feelings of guilt when consuming bad foods and encourage cravings.
– Avoid using food as bribes or punishment.
– Accept that children are likely to have different eating habits from adults – for instance, adolescents may require more food more frequently during the day or may go through periods of liking or disliking particular foods.
– Don’t force your child to eat everything on their plate. Allow your child to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full.