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How to encourage your child to have a healthy relationship with food – iNews

Jul 25th, 2022

With more and more young people being exposed to the latest fitness influencers or diet trends on social media, its no surprise that researchers at the University of Oxford have found an alarming rise in children dieting or feeling like they need to look or eat a certain way.

Unfortunately, this can have lasting affects and negative implications for both their body image, health and overall relationship with food. But there are things parents can do to help shape a healthier attitude.

As I explain in my latest book, The Science Of Nutrition, several studies have shown that it is healthier to eat meals at the same time each day. Evidence suggests that a regular meal pattern which includes eating breakfast, having two to three meals a day, and consuming a greater proportion of your daily energy intake earlier on in the day, provides a sense of rhythm and familiarity.

This can can have real psychological benefits and can easily be incorporated for families eating together at the beginning and the end of day, with lunchtime being with friends at school. Try to sit down as a family at the dinner table, as this can support positive associations with food. Having a conversation during a meal slows down the speed at which you eat, leaving you more likely to notice feelings of fullness before overeating.

A positive eating environment at home is key to encouraging good eating behaviours. Get your children involved with cooking so they can see the process from start to finish. Sing songs and get creative to make it even more fun. Provide your child with exposure to lots of different foods and meals. Try to stay as relaxed as possible before and during mealtimes and be a role model for eating a variety of different foods and having a healthy relationship towards food intake. The more you pressurise your child, the less likely they are to want to try new foods or eat their meal. Limit bribery, as this will only make things worse.

It is becoming increasingly common place that people of all ages feel they should maintain a minimal calorific intake at all costs, very quickly disregarding the social and physical pleasures and traditions associated with eating even disregarding their own personal preference.

Counting calories can provide a sense of control for some dieters but it often ends up becoming all-consuming, resulting in a lonely, competitive dieting culture. Rather than helping, being overly conscious of calories may make eating a confusing and perilous activity.

Body size and shape arent always the best indicator of health either. Someone who eats a less healthy diet and does little exercise may be genetically predetermined to have less body fat than someone in a larger body leading a healthier lifestyle.

Rather than using weight or measures like BMI to define wellbeing, an alternative health at every size approach focuses on sustainable health-promoting behaviour regardless of body size. Proponents argue a weight-neutral approach is healthier because it avoids the potentially harmful effects of repeated dieting, such as a higher risk of early death and psychological distress. Ultimately, nutrition and health are socio-economic issues that require understanding and empathy.

If youre concerned about your childs eating habits, pay special attention as to whether your child is being affected by eating traps, restrictive dieting cycles or any black-and-white thinking as well as lots of time on social media, as this can help you support and speak openly with them to try and make changes to these thought processes and actions.

Please remember that if you have any concerns about your childs weight or their attitudes or relationship with food then it may be a good idea to book an appointment with your GP or seek help from a specialist childrens registered nutritionist or dietitian. In some instances it is advisable to work alongside a counsellor or psychologist as it can enhance progress and recovery.

Rhiannon Lambert is a registered nutritionist, Sunday Times best-selling author of The Science of Nutrition and host of the Food For Thought podcast. She can be found on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok @rhitrition

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How to encourage your child to have a healthy relationship with food - iNews

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