NDSU Extension Service - Sargent County

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Walk the Talk

Walk the Talk  11/25/16We’ve all heard phrases such as “walk the talk,” “practice what you preach,” and “actions speak louder than words.” Such phrases apply to many situations.  Eating habits, for example.  A good number of studies have shown strong links between the eating habits of parents and the food preferences and nutrient intakes of their children.

When parents eat better, so do their children.  When parents drink more milk and eat more fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-rich foods, so do their children.  When parents consume less fat and sodium, so do their children. 

Most likely, the opposite is also true.  When parents thumb their nose at certain foods or are resistant to trying new foods, their children learn to do the same.

The “division of responsibility” between adult and child has become highly regarded a sensible guidance and best advice regarding child-feeding practices.  Ellyn Satter, registered dietician and child feeding expert, put forth the concept.  It hinges on the idea that the role of parents and other caregivers in feeding children is to offer positive structure, age-appropriate support, and healthful food options.  This leaves the child to be responsible for whether and how much to eat from the healthful food and beverage options that are offered to them.  This division of responsibility promotes healthy attitudes toward food and eating.

Four strategies that help us avoid unpleasant food fights with children so that we can enjoy meals without squeals include:

- Make regularly scheduled meals a family priority.  Structured mealtimes and snack times are reassuring to young     children.  Eating on the run doesn’t work well for children.

- Avoid pressuring or forcing children to eat.  It doesn’t work.  Kids like foods less if they are forced to eat them, or if they are given bribes or rewards to eat them.  Keep in mind that it may take 7-15 exposures to a new food item before children are willing to eat and enjoy it.  Even “picky” eaters can be helped to enjoy a variety of nutritious foods by having those foods served regularly, seeing others enthusiastically eating and enjoying them, and being encouraged to taste them. 

- Model the habits you want your children to develop.  This goes for food choices and table manners, too.

- Enjoy the foods you want your children to enjoy.  Serve healthful foods in appealing ways.  While eating, talk about the great flavor and how the foods make you strong and healthy. 

Contact the Extension Office (724-3355, ext. 5) for more information on this topic, as well as recipes, shopping lists, conversation starters, and other resources to enrich your family mealtimes.

Reference:  Enriching Family Mealtimes Tool Kit. Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association 2007.

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/smile-fruit-nutrition-healthy-1133779/   (downloaded 11/29/16)

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