Let’s Change the Way We Relate to Food

Childhood obesity is out of control and the poor quality of the food we give our children has been blamed for years. However, this epidemic does not have a single culprit; there are many other situations that are responsible. One of them, and my personal pet peeve, is using food as a reward to stimulate repeat performances or results, such as winning at a competition or earning good grades.

Jamie cleaned the room? Ice cream tonight. Pat took out the trash? Pizza! When fast food, sweets and the like are presented as prizes, they become an issue.

“But they like it!” Well, the only reason children crave this type of food is because parents introduced it into their diets or allowed others to do so. The first step is to remove food—healthy or otherwise—from the list of rewards for any achievement. Next is to introduce healthy meals and healthy snacks to our children. The earlier this is done, the easier it is. You will need a support group, so ask your friends, family and even the schools your children attend to be on your side.

It’s expected for parents to respond, “But I did not want to hurt my family. They could take it the wrong way.” Guess what? There’s only one way: The Parents’ Way. And everyone should support you on that.

My suggestion is to remove food stuff from your rewards list. Replace it with visits to art galleries and museums, special trips, movies, books, etc. Reserve foods for family related activities. With this approach, children will begin to associate food with good family memories, not as a reward for achievement.

There are situations in which it’s unreasonable to avoid junk food in our culture—birthday parties, holidays—but we can start adding healthy snacks and food choices to their menus.

The bottom line is that we have to change how society relates to food and we can make a difference starting at home. We have the power to change the world, but we need to start by changing ourselves first.

Your children will begin to associate food with good family memories, not as a reward for achievement.

By Juçara Santos