Dec 282012
raising a food smart kid

We don’t often republish other folks work, but this article about raising a food smart kid is too good not to share.

By Jody Montgomery,

I haven’t yet met a parent that hasn’t at one time or another been concerned about their child’s dietary habits. What is a parent to do?

Nutrition expert Ellyn Satter’s philosophy of child feeding is as simple as it is radical: “The parent is responsible for what, when and where. The child is responsible for how much and whether they eat.” Really? I know a parent with a teen who needs to be very watchful over the quantities that her child takes. Even if items are in the fridge or in the cupboards…the item is snuck to the bedroom and devoured. So how do we raise “eating smart” kids?


  1. Plan your shopping list, buy your foods and choose the snack foods.  Buy wisely. If you buy junk…you or someone you love will eat junk.
  2. Schedule meal times if feeding times are a problem.  Say, “The kitchen is closed. It reopens at 4 p.m.”
  3. If making more than one meal for those in your home is a problem, don’t do it. Make one meal that can be altered. An example is spaghetti, sauce on the side. Another example is when making veggies, cook some, keep some raw.
  4. Have a specific area to eat. You may then make a special night a TV tray night, a picnic in the living room night, a popcorn night.  However most meals should be at the table, not in front of the TV.

NOT TO DO: These tips come from The National Eating Disorders Association,

  1. Set the wrong goals. An example may be interpreted as “I’ll like you more if you lost some weight.”
  2. Keep your mouth shut. When we see prejudices or comments made about overweight people, share our concerns for the comments. If we keep quiet our children may adopt some of these prejudices.
  3. Let embarrassment get in the way. Wear those shorts! Don that bathing suit! Be proud of the inner beauty and make sure to share this with your children.
  4. Focus on appearance. If we allow our children to judge the book by the cover, we are allowing possible ridicule and condescending remarks. Instead, a comment might be, “It must be difficult for that gentleman to move easily.”
  5. Set a bad example. Our choices are what our children are watching.
  6. Exercise for the wrong reasons. Constantly stating how unhappy we are with our body or “I’ll have the perfect body” may give the wrong message to our children. Instead, note that our heart, our muscles, our energy, our mental health will be improved with exercise.
  7. Ignore the impact of the media. Extremely thin models should be used as a teachable moment for our boys and girls.
  8. Put kids on diets without consulting with a doctor and following constructive practices. Placing children on extreme diets can and most likely will backfire in the area of watchful nutrition.
  9. Ignore self-esteem. If we are not noticing the intellectual, social, athletic or achievement side of our child and are placing the exterior as the number one factor, our child’s self-esteem will fall. We must compliment, love, and nurture.


Over time, picky eaters will vary their selections. They generally react negatively to new foods but will usually accept them with time and experience. Give them a bit of everything and encourage taste testing.  Praise vehemently when items are tried. Don’t worry if children push the greens aside.


  • Fruit smoothies (fruit, milk or fruit of veggie juice, protein powder). My husband and I are now drinking “green” smoothies, loaded with spinach, kale, lettuce and a few pieces of fruit for sweetness.  My daughter and her swim team buddies love them!
  • Roast your veggies instead of steam. Spray a bit of salad dressing on them.
  • Have a raw platter upon their return from school—fruits, raw veggies, mozzarella sticks, nuts. No chips, carbs or processed ick! If they play sports in the afternoon, add a small carb.
  • Balance. Explain to the kids that eating a balance is the trick. If you eat too much junk, the teeter totter falls, so create a balance with the good food. If they had a cinnamon roll for breakfast, what are they going to eat to create a balance?
  • Again, schedule a meal a day to be eaten together as a family.  This offers the best sharing not only of yummy healthy foods but of daily problems or accomplishments.
  • Have the kids help with preparation. There is more of a buy-in when the kids prepare.
  • Exercise as a family together.
  • Allow your children to watch your efforts to become healthy.

Food connects, warms the heart and can add to wonderful family experiences. It is up to us to create the healthy connection.

Raising a Food Smart Kid

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