“Mummy, I want another ice-cream!” Whilst during the school period most of us have the stamina to answer: “No sweetie, you already had your share”, during the holidays it is very easy to give in to the many extra food requests. Some would argue this is part of the fun of being on holiday. Yet there is another way of looking at it. If our kids are not taught what a food portion is, and provided with the opportunity to practise self-control from a young age, won’t they find it hard to control their food intake when they are older? Here we are not talking about completely forbidding food that is not considered healthy, but how kids can learn to eat without indulging, even during the holiday period.
For the health-conscious parents it would be ideal living in a world where candy, chocolates, sugary soft drinks and fried foods did not exist. Yet, one needs to accept the fact this is far from reality. Not exposing kids to such food at a young age is a good practise, as it reduces the chance the kids would feel the urge for high sugar, fat or salt food as they grow older. However, at some point in their life they will be exposed to any of these foods at parties, school or other social settings.
Most adults find it hard to maintain a healthy weight due to lack of knowledge of what a food portion is and how to eat in a timely manner without consuming food due to one’s emotions. Regularly consuming extra portions of food, and eating out of anger, stress, tiredness, happiness or simply because food is around, are all reasons why a person puts on undesirable extra weight which can be detrimental to one’s health. Hence, empowering our kids with the tools required to eat healthy balanced meals, with the right portions and without over eating is the key to their health. It is also a means of learning self-control in another area of their life.
In addition, allowing higher sugar and fat food more frequently during the holidays is giving the subtle message that it is ok not to watch what we eat when in a more relaxed environment.
To ensure clarity, here we are not advocating complete exclusion of what the kids are seeing their friends consuming, but rather a responsible consumption. Complete exclusion can have its repercussions too. Kids tend to conform or rebel to their parents’ advice, and with total restriction of high fat and sugary food in the early years, a number of kids can rebel at an older age by buying it behind their parents’ back or consuming it without restriction as adults. It also increases the risk of food anxiety and guilt feelings when consuming ‘the forbidden’ food as adults. These too are not healthy practises for a child’s develpment.
This shows, how we as parents, are responsible to guide our kids to eat sensibly and sticking to a balance, even with food. And like with any other advice we give, let us be role models. Let us be the first ones who know their portions and know how to say NO for a second dessert helping.