Tips on Talking to Kids and Teens About Food, Diet and Weight

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic numbers in today’s American society. While I don’t pretend to know all of the reasons this is happening – whether it’s processed foods, lack of exercise, or too much junk food – I do know that successful parents are looking for ways to prevent obesity from happening in their home to their children, they are also seeking ways to talk to their kids about the subject without seeming crass or unemphatic. We know there are ways to prevent our children from becoming overweight and keeping them healthy. They all start with talking to our kids and teens. But, when it comes to the topics of food, diet and weight, parents really need to be careful how they talk to their children. Discussions about what gets put in their mouths or how they look can lead to lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem in kids. This can happen even in normal conversations, like the one I had in store dressing room with my preteen who had tried on a new pair shorts. I made an offhand comment like, “Wow! You’re really starting to sprout.” She turned to me with a scared face and said, “Am I getting fat?” Considering how thin my daughter is, I was very surprised to hear this question come from her. “No. You are getting taller and starting to look like the beautiful young lady you are going to be.” I said. She turned back around and said, “You have to say that. You’re my mom.” It is amazing how delicate our kids and teens can be about how they look and their weight in general. Here are some tips you can use to talk to your kids about healthy eating, diet and weight without seeming like you’re the food police: Help your child understands what foods are healthy and what foods are not. Talk to them about how healthy foods help us grow and give us energy to do the things we have to do. Then talk to them about fun foods that aren’t healthy. Tell your child that these foods are okay in moderation, but not all the time. Also, list for them the healthy foods that your family feels are also fun foods. Even young children can understand these concepts. Treat your child like the smart person they are and talk to them that way. Share with them the facts about different food types and how those food types affect our bodies. Go to different sites on the Internet and read about healthy food choices. One site, Nourish Interactive, describes themselves as “your free one stop resource for fun nutrition games for kids, interactive nutrition tools and tips for parents and health educators to use to promote healthy living for the whole family.” The interactive games are cute and fun for younger kids and the recipes would interest your want-to-play-in-the-kitchen preteen and teen. Strive to not be critical of what your child is eating. Notice I did not say ‘strive to not talk critically’, although you shouldn’t, I’m taking it one step further with this tip in asking you to strive to not even be thinking critically of your child’s choices in food. This is because your child can tell when you’re being critical and when you’re not – it doesn’t matter what words you use. If your child needs to lose weight, make it clear to them that you are on their side. Make a plan for healthy eating together. Allow your child to give you input and to have some say in what the final plan is. Praise your child for taking an active approach in being healthy. Avoid saying the word fat. Model healthy eating habits. When you make good choices concerning the food in your diet, you are letting your child know that you really do believe it is important to choose the right foods for being healthy. Talk to your kids about the word diet. One of your discussions about healthy eating should be to define the word diet to your child. Make it clear to your child that a diet is simply what you eat. It is not something you do to make yourself thinner. While we can change our diet to eat different foods if we find we are gaining weight, is important to always maintain a healthy diet. Share with our parenting community: Do you have some tips about talking to your kids and teens about food, diet and weight? Please share your experiences and advice in our comments section below.

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