Intuitive eating for the preschool set

One of the things I still haven’t figured out is how to teach this concept of intuitive eating to my children (especially since I only have a tenuous grasp on it myself). Already my kids are bombarded — from school, from PBS Kids, all over the place — with this dichotomy of “good food” and “bad food.” This seems wrong to me, for them to be taught to make moral judgments about food in their preschool classrooms; but on the other hand, their teachers are right, that candy bar isn’t good for their teeth.

But putting intuitive eating into kid-terms for children who are already programmed to think of food as either good or bad is eluding me. For that matter, I’m still trying to defeat my own knee-jerk reaction to classify food as such: broccoli good, pasta bad. But my goal for my kids is for food to be just not that big a deal, and that’s going to mean a rejection, to an extent, of the things they’re being taught about food outside the home — and in the home, a more intense focus on modeling healthy attitudes toward food.

This post on the blog Spilt Milk provides a good framework for shifting my kids’ beliefs about food, although her daughter hasn’t already been taught the conflicting messages about food that my kids have learned. I’m having trouble finding much about this topic of shaping kids’ attitudes about food from a HAES perspective, though.

What do you think? What do you teach your kids (or what would you teach your kids, if you had them) about food? Or, have you found others writing about this topic that I’ve missed?

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3 thoughts on “Intuitive eating for the preschool set

  1. Hi, thanks for the link 🙂

    I think this is a really important topic. And it can be very hard (as I am starting to find, as we encounter issues at daycare etc.) for parents to ‘enforce’ their style of food rules when it conflicts with the dominant ideas we get handed down from diet culture.

    Ellyn Satter is invaluable!

    What I’m finding is that not many prominent bloggers who write about fat and HAES have children (or write explicity about parenting) so it can be hard to find support for those types of conversations.

    With my daughter, who’s a little older now, I try to use questioning to get her to make food decisions rather than having to make them for her. I say things like ‘Do you think your tummy will feel too full later if you eat all of that?’ rather than ‘Oh my god that’s your fourth chocolate biscuit!!’
    Instead of saying ‘stop snacking!’ I’ll ask her, ‘Do you feel hungry in your tummy or do you just feel like something to eat for another reason?’ And I don’t refuse her food even if she answers the latter: it’s not about policing but encouraging her to acknowledge what she’s really feeling.
    And I encourage her to follow her body’s cues instead of what she ‘should’ be eating. ‘What do you feel like, fruit, or a piece of cake?’
    At this stage that’s about it, but as she gets older I want to talk to her more about how different foods might make us feel different things, some give more energy etc., and she should think about what her body wants and how she’s feeling as she eats. But you are right, this needs to be balanced with the idea that food and eating is just a thing, just normal, nothing to obsess over!

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