I recently got a shout out from Dr. Sam Spillman, local physical therapist/chiropractor/golf game improver/wellness advisor/philanthropist, for a conversation we had about modeling healthy eating habits for kids.
Sam appreciated that I talk with my children about food being strong or weak, instead of good or bad. Additionally, I only talk about weak in terms of which foods would not help our bodies be strong if we ate too much of them.
I don’t want any food to be off the table (ha! pun intended) for my kids. I want them to appreciate the deliciousness of buttercream frosting. I want them to know what cotton candy tastes like. I want them to drink champagne at their friends’ weddings (in 20 years, of course).
I also want them to have information about which foods will do the most to make their muscles and bones and brain strong and healthy.
One way that I’ve found to do this without entering lecture mode is telling my kids a story. In fact, we have one story in particular, about a little girl named Arianna. She loved ice cream so much that she decided to open an ice cream shop. At every meal, every day, she ate watermelon and mango ice cream with strawberry boba on top. One day she started to walk up the stairs, but she couldn’t! She couldn’t even lift up her legs. Her mom and dad rushed her to the doctor, who told her that her muscles had TURNED TO GAK because they had not had enough strong food. So Arianna started eating strong food again, and her muscles and bones grew stronger. She still ate watermelon and mango ice cream with strawberry boba on top, but not at every meal. Just sometimes.
My kids love this silly story. One reason is that they helped me create it. I often play a game with them where I start a story and pause to let them fill in the blanks. Emma named Arianna and picked out her favorite flavors of ice cream. Years later, Emma’s little sister Maggie loves this story because she knows I told it to her big sister when she was Maggie’s age.
As a mom of an almost-nine year old and a three AND A HALF year old, I am still learning how to best teach truly healthy, joyful ways of fueling our bodies and celebrating life, without the shame that, unfortunately, so often attaches itself to food and eating. Story telling with exaggerated parts to help children understand consequences is one tool that seems to resonate with my girls. I hope it might be useful for your family, too.