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Get Ahead Kids® Feature Article
Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 3, No. 3 - May/June 2011

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Let's Talk About Food

By Dorte Bladt

The sun is bright, the sky as high and blue as it can be. The birds are performing acrobatics, enjoying the light breeze. The waves are rolling gently, making a calm rumble as they meet the white sand.

What a beautiful day! Let's get outside and enjoy it.

Like everyone, our family loves going for picnics on the beach on days like this. The feeling of wind in the hair, the sun on your back, the fresh smell of salt water and the kids' happy squeals in the water. A most special time to enjoy!

When my kids were little, we used to have a lovely routine for outings on days like these. We would bring our little picnic rug, and purchase some prawns, a ripe avocado, cherry tomatoes, a french stick and some vegemite. What a treat! We would tell the kids that the prawns were yucky, fishy, and full of prawn brain and prawn poo that would make their fingers smelly and try to convince them that they should eat the bread with avocado and tomatoes or the vegemite, and leave the prawns to the parents. It worked for a while. A very short while!

The kids observed us savouring and enjoying the prawns; they could see that this was a special treat, and although they heard our words, they did not care, but wanted some too. Good for them! We still have this special picnic routine, now we just buy more prawns.

There is nothing new about the knowledge of the difference in what is being said and what is being understood or heard by the other person. As early as in the 1950's, Albert Mehrabian, an early researcher of body language, found that the total impact of a message is about 7% from the words used, 38% vocal, such as tone of voice, pitch, speed and inflection and a whopping 55% nonverbal - the way we stand, use our hands, facial expressions, etc.

My kids picked up on that pretty quickly, yours most likely have too. And not just in this positive way. Think of the message received when the kids see us come home tired from work or shopping, and we plop ourselves down in front of the TV with a bag of chips, or with the feet up with a cup of tea and a biscuit... Aha, this is what you do when you want to relax!

And think of the other inferred messages we associate with food: desserts after dinner if we eat everything on the plate. A special dinner for special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas, take-always after busy, physically challenging days, chocolate treats when we are feeling down, ice-cream or lollies after listening well at swimming lessons. There are lots of rewards and good feelings attached to food.

Is that really what we want the kids to understand about food?

According to the Australian Government (www.child-obesity.info):

  • About 20-25% of Australian children are overweight or obese.
  • Between 1985 and 1997 obesity levels increased 2-4 times
  • If weight gain trends continue, by the year 2020 80% of all Australian adults & a third of all children will be overweight or obese.

Obesity aside, there are also long term health risks-heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, gallbladder disease and gallstones, breathing problems and arthritis. All things we do not wish for our children or anyone else.

These are avoidable. Eat less, choose healthier foods and exercise regularly. Eat at least 3 fruits and 5 vegetables per day and keep processed food to a minimum. We know this, everyone of us. How come, no matter how many times we tell our children, they still choose the less healthy option? Could it have something to do with them observing us, and seeing hat we are saying with everything but our words?

Tips for Parents

Be aware of your body language at meal times. Make sure you are open, relaxed & smiling when you dish up the family meal. Expect everyone to love your creation, & don't worry if they don't.

Smile, savour & enjoy what is on your own plate - the "Do as I say, not what I do" does not work.

Use events as treats & rewards: reading a special book together, going for a walk to the park, inviting a friend over to sleep or building a Lego tower together.

Make meal time family time, each person helping according to ability. Even little ones can help cut a cucumber or some fresh beans with a butter knife.

Take the time at dinner to enjoy a chat about the day's events. Be prepared to tell your own funny tale. Ask open-ended questions with a keen interest in the answer.

Babies & toddlers are hardwired to enjoy sweet things, & their taste buds take time to mature to other tastes. Be prepared to serve a new food up to 20 times before it gets accepted as something suitable for eating. We don't like throwing food away, but just because your child does not eat the vegetable does not mean he/she does not like it, yet.

Have a rule about everyone having to try at least one bite of everything. That includes parents.

Eat 3 raw foods every day: apple, carrot, cucumber, pear, celery or whatever you like. Make sure your child sees you eat it. Savour it, enjoy it, take the time to actually taste it, to savour the texture in your mouth. Visualise the amazing benefits this particular food has for your health & well-being; that your body can heal & make new tissue from this fresh item you are enjoying at this very moment.

Choose healthier treats: a punnet of blueberries, a box of sultanas, dried mango, frozen banana, watermelon or orange segments, icy poles made of frozen pureed fruit. Also:

  • Make a food sculpture out of fruits & veggies.
  • Have a picnic on the beach, or in the back yard, or on the living room floor.
  • Have fun, enjoy, laugh, slow down; life is short, make the most of it!

More Information

Dorte Bladt
Doctor of Chiropractic
Family Chiropractic Charlestown
2 Lincoln St, Charlestown
P: 02 4942 4842
info@familychiropracticcharlestown.com.au
www.familychiropracticcharlestown.com.au

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