Why You Need to be Mindful of What You Eat and Drink with Young Kids

Being a parent is not easy, and most people are comfortable acknowledging it. Caring for young children may require you to change your schedule, your social life, and even occasionally your career or where you live.

These are all big changes that people often talk about without hesitation.

But few people want to talk about the hardest part of being a parent: being a role model. Perhaps not everyone realizes that parenthood means you’re on-call to be an example for your child whenever they’re around… or maybe it’s just so ingrained in parenthood that people think it goes without saying. 

Either way, it’s an intense part of parenthood that you should be able to discuss more openly. And this is truer with your food and beverage choices than it is with almost everything else.

You know that what, how, and when you eat affects much more than just your waistline. It can also affect your physical health, your social life, and even your mental health. 

As a parent, it is your job to set your children up for success as best you can. And when your food choices have that much of an impact, setting a good example is key. 

But just like with the burden of leading by example, few people want to talk about what exactly you should be modeling. Thankfully, there are two very specific things you can do to make the whole job just a little bit easier.

1) Focus on Portions

As an adult, you usually get to decide what you eat. Budget, diet, or food allergies might keep you from eating rich foods every single meal.

But if you want, say, pizza for dinner, you can make it happen. And if you want to overindulge in a favorite dish, who is going to stop you? 

But when children are watching, that’s a pretty unstable example to set. Overindulging in food leads to all sorts of problems, the least of which is weight gain.

And when kids see their parents overindulge on a regular basis—whether that means eating junk food or eating too much—they see it as a normal way to eat.

Instead of heaping your plate with too much food… or the wrong foods… make sure you’re eating balanced meals when you’re around children. It’s okay to indulge now and then, of course.

You just need to make sure it’s a rare occurrence. And, when it does happen, explain that you’re giving yourself an extra treat so the child knows it is, without a doubt, something you shouldn’t do often.

2) Focus on Nutrition

Eating too much food is only one thing you need to be aware of when you’re eating or drinking around children. As has been reported, kids are constantly watching everything you do as they are learning how to live from you. 

If you are constantly eating junk or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, your children will likely mimic that. That’s why you also need to be aware of what sort of nutrition you’re modeling for your kids. 

My favorite food in the world is macaroni and cheese. I would it every day if I could.

And, for a little while in college, I did. A box of mac and cheese with some tuna or ground beef was enough to get me through all-night study sessions.

But when I had my son, I realized I wouldn’t want him eating that way. I’d want him to eat a variety of simple but nutritionally balanced foods.

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my college days—and my life since—might have been a little better if I had eaten more nutritionally, too. But nobody taught me how to eat that way.

As soon as I made this realization, I changed the kind of food I was eating. I still get my macaroni and cheese fix, but I only have it every now and then. It’s all so I can set a better example for my son.

This is especially important if you have a craving for high-sugar or high sodium foods. Anyone with diabetes or high blood pressure should definitely stay away from added sugars. Even if you don’t have one of these health issues, it’s important to limit your sugar consumption.

High-sodium foods should be eaten in moderation. These foods are especially dangerous if your family has a history of heart of kidney problems.

Kids don’t know this, though. They know when something tastes good and they want to eat a lot of it. It is up to the adults around them to introduce healthy foods and a balanced diet, and teach them how to prepare nutritious meals.

The Takeaway

Parenting is hard. Always having to be aware of what and how you’re eating is exhausting.

But it’s all part of raising a small person into a well-balanced adult. They will mimic everything you do. 

The easiest way to handle this is to start when your kids are still too young to notice much. It’s easier to skip the soda and pass up on foods packed with sodium when you’ve already been doing it for a few years.

Not everyone has this option, of course. If your children are already old enough to notice what you eat—or to develop their own bad eating habits—there is still hope.

You can always admit when you slip up on your healthy eating habits. And if your child has developed some bad habits already, you can work together to change your eating patterns.

Just remember that compassion and change go hand in hand. Turning the food you eat into a minefield won’t help anyone. Rather, focus on the positive side of things, the goals you want to achieve, and the benefits you will see.

Together, all of this can help make this change just a little bit easier.

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