When we label foods, we create the false idea that there are certain foods that we should or should not eat, and we set the kids in our lives up for failure. When kids hear these messages, they may enjoy a slice of cake at a birthday party or an ice cream cone after a tough soccer game and decide that they are “bad” for indulging. This can lead kids to feel guilt and shame. For some, it may lead to restricting the foods they eat, or overindulging when they get the chance.
But there are certain foods that are better for us, right? Shouldn’t we be helping kids to make good food choices?
It is true that there are certain foods that provide our bodies with more nutritional value than others. And it is important to help kids understand how certain foods make our bodies feel, our ability to focus, our energy levels, and our sleep.
It’s also important to emphasize balance instead of restriction. While whole, fresh foods are vital to nutrition, food is also fundamental to family/community gatherings and celebrations. In addition, like it or not, we live in a busy world whereby our best efforts at nutrition sometimes look a little more like processed foods than we’d choose in an ideal world. All we can do is our best and remember that it’s okay! Some days or sets of days will be “strong nutrition days”, and others will be not so strong. The best we can do is honor our body, mind, and spirit.
Along the way, you can engage kids in learning more about how their bodies work, how certain foods make them feel, and talk to them about what specific foods provide to support their growing bodies and minds.