Kids and Food Choices: Teaching the Why Not Just the What

Posted by the Mom (aka Kelly Biedny)

Every kids knows that when they get caught sneaking a cookie they are, at the very least, going to ‘the look’ from their mom, but more probably a scolding of sorts. They also know that if they get caught sneaking strawberries out of the fridge, their mom will assist them and ask them, ‘would you like some water or milk with your snack?’ They’ve learned which foods are ‘bad’ and which foods are ‘good,’ but do they know why?

I think that Alex and Soph do know why–I mean, they should, because we talk about it all the time, but once in a while they tend not to pay attention. I’m one of those parents that tries really hard to always give a reason for the answers I provide, not just ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ I really want them to understand the why’s behind the decisions I hand down. I think this is because as a child, when I was told something was the way it was, ‘because I said so’…well that just wasn’t an answer in my book. Now as a parent, I get it. There are many times when I’d like to say, ‘because I said so,’ and occasionally I do, but when it comes to food choices I always have a reason behind my ‘yes’ or ‘no. ;D

There are two primary ‘reasons’ I try to focus on when explaining the why’s of food with the kids. The are:

  1. Balance – All foods should be eaten in a fashion appropriate to the nutritional needs of the eater. For the kids, I explain this be letting them know that all foods (even the ‘bad’ ones) are taken into consideration in this balance. If you get too much of even a ‘good’ food, it can be problematic.

    I also use balance to their benefit when it comes to candy and sweets. If Alex or Soph want say, cake for lunch after only eating 2 bites of a sandwich, well that doesn’t work. If they want the cake, they have to eat the healthy, balanced equivalent first. This strategy fills up their bellies with nutritious food so they eat less cake, and that is a very good (and balanced) thing. 😀

  2. Benefits – All foods serve a nutritional purpose. I remember when the kids were little, if they didn’t drink their milk I would tell them their bones were crying. And, when they would eat all of their carrots at dinner, I’d tell them I needed sunglasses to look at ’em because their eyes where so bright. Now that they’re older, the plea from their crying bones is less of an influence, but they do know that milk helps make their bones stronger. And, they know that fruits and vegetable are essential if they want to be healthy and strong.

I know that none of my teaching necessarily means that my kids will always make healthy food choices and eat balanced diets, BUT, knowledge is power. And I’m seeing my constant reiterations, rules and teachings about balance and trying foods start to pay off with Alex. He’s starting to like food he used to ‘hate’. He’s also starting to want to try foods, and then once he does, liking them. I hope the same will be true of Sophie as she gets older. She’s already a bit more daring then her brother with food, but there are things she doesn’t like and there really is no logical reason for her aversion.  I guess that all I can do as the Mom is set the rules on the "what’s", teach the "why’s" and hope they both sink-in.

Happy Family Cooking,

Kelly (the Mom)

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Stacy Blenner Says:

    Thank you, very useful. I wasnt really a big fan of Spinach for many years ( lie, I hated the stuff), but after marrying a vegetarian I kind of had to get used to it, and have slowly come to absolutely love the stuff. Spinach curry is now my absolute favourite! I recently found an entire spinach recipes website which is my new favourite site now, you should take a look!

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  1. Weekly News Links Week of July 26 « FitCity Moms Blog Says:

    […] Kids and Food Choices: Teaching the Why Not Just the What This mom is trying to teach her kids the importance of the two Bs: balance and benefits. After you read the blog, check out the rest of her website for plenty of kid-friendly recipes. […]

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