We’ll start with the, sometimes scary (am I the only one who feels this way?), little truth…your toddler is always watching you. And learning and mimicking you. Even with how and what you eat. So how can we use this to help our toddlers build good eating habits?
This does not mean you need to eat “perfectly” in ANY way, and it also has nothing to do with your beautiful, strong, kick-ass mama body (or dad bod)…so don’t even go there!
But it is an excellent opportunity to take a quick look inward and see what type of example you want to set for your child. These might just be a few small mindset shifts and some different language that you might consider.
Our Real Life Example
One day we realized my toddler was eating extremely fast.
The obvious problem with eating too fast is that it can cause lag time in being full and picking up on fullness cues.
My husband can be a fast eater. I noticed that I had started eating much faster than usual. We were in what we’ll call “the less enjoyable mealtime with your toddler phase” (to put it lightly), and I felt like I was always rushing through the meal. And eating fast.
So my husband and I both took a pause and made a pact to slow down. We decided we would make the effort to enjoy mealtime, even if we have to “fake it till we make it,” knowing mealtimes will get better as our boys get older.
And once we both made this important change in our own eating habits…guess who also started to slow down their eating as well?
F*** diet culture
It’s a billion-dollar industry that sends the wrong message to our children and to us that “skinny” is the goal. (In my humble opinion, I like this goal, outlined at the end of this post, much better). Consider reading Combating Picky Eating with Your Toddler.
If you are someone who uses “diets” or sometimes a little refocusing on certain eating habits in a way that works for you that is absolutely okay!! You are in control of what makes you happy and how your body works best! This isn’t to discredit that at all.
The focus here is how to keep the toxicity of diet culture messages out of your household. So if you are on diet, rethink how you might show that to your children. Focus on how food makes you feel on the inside, instead of how you look on the outside.
You want to avoid your child thinking, “Mom’s constantly on a diet to get skinny. Am I skinny? Do I need to be skinny?”
Here’s an example:
You go to a restaurant, and you order a salad while your husband orders a cheeseburger. And your child asks you why you didn’t order a cheeseburger? P.S. if you want the cheeseburger, order the cheeseburger.
Instead of demonizing the cheeseburger by saying things like:
Cheeseburgers are bad for you. Cheeseburgers make you fat. Mommy is on a diet. Cheeseburgers are unhealthy! Salad is healthy!
Consider language like:
Cheeseburgers sometimes make me tired, and I have a busy afternoon! My body was craving a salad! But cheeseburgers are yummy too!
Questions to Consider
Below are some questions to consider with your own eating habits! I’ve been guilty of ALL of these, so it’s a no-judgment zone—just things to think about. And to take it a step further, use these questions to open a conversation with your partner about the type of example you want to set for your child.
Are you a picky eater?
Do you often eat past your fullness?
Are you eating all the colorful things from mama earth?
Building plates with all the food choices?
Not calling things “gross”?
Snacking all day?
Having good mealtime conversations?
Constantly clearing your plate?
Eating at a pace to fully enjoy your meal?
I’m hesitant to say striving for a “healthy relationship with food” because the phrase is a huge pet peeve of mine. What else does someone say you have a relationship with that’s not a person? Doesn’t using this word about food seem a little asinine? Relationships are beautiful and challenging. Food should be food! Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge foodie, and a date night at a new amazing restaurant is one of my favorite things! But I think diet culture is to blame for screwing so much of us up with our eating habits and mentality.
Okay, that felt like a tangent. But how can you model the anti-diet culture for your child? Nourishing your body and keeping food neutral and the experience of eating enjoyable! You’re not dating it.