Getting your kids to eat right

January 22, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Getting kids to eat frozen yogurt may not be a problem, but how do you get them to make healthy choices on a regular basis? Dr. John LoRe and Lisa Bilgen, co-founders of the Peace Parenting Project, share these tips.

Getting our kids to eat:
*Excerpts from a Peace Parenting Project workshop

How do we get our kids to eat? YOU DON'T HAVE TO! There are 3 things you never want to force a child to do: eat, sleep, go to the bathroom.

*These things are rightfully in the child's domain. If you think about it, you can't ultimately force a child (or anyone!) to do any of them.

Your job is to make available healthy foods all day long, and LET YOUR CHILD DECIDE which ones AND how much their body wants.

RELAX around it! Don't bring anxiety to your child's relationship with food. Realize that if they're not eating, in most cases, their body just doesn't need it that bad at the moment. Let it go.

A sample model might look like this:

-- A bowl of fruit is always on the table or cut up in the refrigerator.

-- A container of cut up veggies (jicama, carrots, celery, cauliflower, snap peas, etc.) is always available in the refrigerator.

Enjoy a nice healthy dinner together (one you would make for grown-ups!), and include on the table (or easily accessible in the refrigerator) pre-determined backups. Decide these with your child ahead of time. Healthy foods that s/he likes (nut butters with apple, bread or crackers, hard boiled eggs, slices of turkey, etc.). This way, you all sit down to dinner together, everyone eats the same thing, and if someone truly doesn't like it, they prepare their backup! It's simple, doesn't distract from the conversation, and Mom or Dad isn't absent half the meal because they're preparing different items.

Things to avoid:

Don't use food as a punishment or reward (this includes bribes)! We don't want to attach unrelated emotions to eating since emotional eating is related to an array of eating disorders.

Don't use food to soothe your children (when they're upset, etc.). We want to teach our children how to self soothe - not turn to food for comfort!

Don't be a member of the "Clean Plate Club!" This teaches children NOT to listen to their bodies! We want them to eat ONLY when they feel hungry, and STOP when they feel full.

We don't recommend having "dessert" after every meal together. Have treats when you have them - but don't call them "dessert" or link them to anything. And do include fruit as a treat. After dinner, cut up a watermelon right there at the table, and just start passing it around. You'll be surprised how fast it goes when not viewed as a substitute for dessert.

About Lisa Bilgen, M.A., Certified Parent Educator, President, Peace Parenting Project
Lisa created Peace Parenting Project with the lofty goal of creating a generation of emotionally intelligent, heart-centered children, for whom peaceful conflict resolution is second nature. Lisa co-founded and led Attachment Parenting International's Austin Northwest Chapter, providing education and support to parents committed to a healthy, heart-centered approach to raising children peacefully.

Lisa worked with parents of newborn infants at Family Connections in Austin, Texas, a non-profit organization dedicated to proactive parenting for at-risk family systems. At Family Connections, Lisa trained parents of challenging circumstances in applying methods proven to reduce behaviors considered violent toward children, replacing these behaviors with simple and effective peace parenting techniques.

Lisa started her career in Peace Education as a cross-cultural trainer, helping adults understand how cultural beliefs play a role in everything from cultural adjustment processes to conflict resolution. Later, as the Director of Intercultural Programs at Boston University's Center for International Health, Lisa helped professionals from a vast array of cultures work together as a team. Through seminars, workshops and individual & family coaching, Lisa now helps parents create peaceful, loving relationships with their children and a home environment in which children are encouraged to become their truest self. Lisa's services are available in English and Spanish.

About John LoRe, PhD, CAS, Co-founder, Peace Parenting Project
Dr. LoRe has worked in the mental health field for the past 28 years. He is a Licensed HeartMath® Provider and has a degree in Ayurvedic Medicine. He is currently writing his first book, offering a new approach to Psychospiritual Therapy.

Dr. LoRe has worked with adolescents and middle school children, both in private practice and in the school system, for over 24 years. He works extensively with individuals, couples and families. Dr. LoRe specializes in ADHD (in children and adults), Anxiety, Depression, Parenting Together, Conscious and High Conflict Divorce and Personal Transformation.

Dr. LoRe started Peace Parenting Project in response to the need for a new paradigm in parenting, one in which a Heart-Centered approach to raising children results in close, loving relationships between parents, and parents and children.