Philip Larkin and Encouraging Children to Eat Healthily

I doubt Philip Larkin was brought to McDonalds often as a child, but the following from his poetry is good synopsis of why many of us have bad eating habits, in part anyhow.

“They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.”

Much of the reason we eat badly stems from childhood. Although people certainly do pick up bad habits afterwards; actions such as skipping breakfast, eating sweets before bedtime et al, are often bred in youth. And that’s why it’s so important that we encourage development of a healthy attitude towards food in our children – so they don’t end up eating half a packet of Fox’s Creams at midnight in the light of the fridge. So, how do you do so?

Teach Them

Providing children with an understanding of what certain foods do, is a great way to encourage them to eat better. Statements such as ‘eating broccoli will make you big and strong’, or ‘this rice will give you energy for football tomorrow’, all create association and educate. Conversely, telling them that if they only eat sweets they’ll have no energy, so eat something healthy first is a good way to reinforce healthy eating.

Eat with their Eyes

Children eat with their eyes – like the rest of us. However, though we adults may enjoy white minimalism; children are more prone towards exciting and funky looking presentation. Colourful, stimulating looking dishes go down well. For instance fruit kebabs, sandwiches cut into circles and triangles and food arranged like faces on a plate all go down well with little ones.

Food Preparation and Socialising

The test of the pudding may be in the eating, however food preparation is very important and gives children a responsibility and also a further understanding of the food they eat. It also allows you to spend extra time with your child and further still provides them with an interest and a life skill.

From growing plants in the garden to preparing and making foods together, getting children involved with food means they are more likely to eat it, educate them on foods in a meal and create an appreciation and respect of food.

Acknowledge the Positive

Calmness, consistency and reinforcement of the positive will encourage healthy eating habits in the future. Through modelling good eating habits and providing children with healthy food choices you offer them a lifetime of benefits from eating well.

Don’t Force it

One of the principal sins of adults when dealing with children and food is to force them to eat. Healthy children’s’ appetites vary according to growth spurts and so some eat a lot at one time and then like birds at another. Children are often the best judges of how much they want to eat. Alternatively, forcing them to eat food or clean their plate can be the cause of issues in the future – so, don’t force them to eat.

Issues regarding food are innumerable in adulthood, but many have simple childhood roots. Be aware of these with your own kids and they hopefully won’t turn into angry poets using poetry as catharsis for the bad habits you helped create. Oh, and they’ll also benefit significantly from healthy eating behaviours.

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