Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Father's Role in Healthy Habits

Throughout a majority of my childhood my mother was the unofficial point person in the kitchen - the person who both planned and prepared my meals.   However both of my parents were always present at the kitchen table during meal time.  As a child I was an extremely pick eater and ate a restricted and monotonous diet.  During this time my dad played an active role in helping me to overcome my picky eating habits.

 For those of you that might know my dad you are probably aware that he will eat anything and everything (both healthy and unhealthy foods).  During my childhood he always exampled not to be afraid of any food and how to consume of diet full of variety.  I can remember countless nights at the dinner table when he would encourage me to try a new food.  He would always offer valid rationale on why I should try the food and explain the important nutrients the food provided.  Most importantly he never gave up on helping me to overcome my picky eating habits.

Years later the variety of my dietary intake has expanded tremendously and my fear of certain food groups has diminished.  I have my dad to largely thank for this.  Many people often overlook the large role a dad plays in his child's nutrition.  Children model the actions of both of their parents, thus identifying the need for a father to play an equally active role in teaching his children healthy nutrition habits.

Here are a few tips on how dad can make a difference when it comes to nutrition habits:

1.  Set a great example.  Children typically watch closely the actions of  both their parents.  If you want your children to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and limit sugary foods lead by example.  Remember food habits learned early in life are easier to maintain for lifelong.

2.  Avoid the word healthy.  Many children have a difficult time understanding what the term "healthy means. In fact the term can become a distraction and lead to poor appetites and food intake.  Try to use descriptive terms to describe the food such a "crunchy carrot" or "red apple".

3.  Get cooking.  A stereotypically thought is dad's night of cooking involves driving thru the nearest fast food restaurant or delivery from a local pizza restaurant.  In current times many men spend more time in the kitchen than women. When both parents alternate time in the kitchen the chance of a home cooked meal doubles.

4. Take it to the outdoors.  Outside is a perfect place for fathers to encourage healthy eating habits. Including children in activities like planting a garden, going fishing, or firing up the grill will get them more excited about healthy habits.

5.  Never force a food.  A common mistake parents often make is forcing a child to eat certain foods they may not like, which can only further detour them for eating the food.  Serve them the same foods your are eating, but alllow them to say "no thank you" after they have taken at least three bits of the food.

Lastly, I want to share one of my favorite recipes my dad makes: Guacamole.

Happy Father's Day to all the amazing fathers out there!!!

Your family's dietitian,
Kristen Smith

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