Creating Positive Food Environments to Nurture Healthy Eaters
Educators are role models, and your role can be very influential. The food environment you create can play a considerable part in kids developing a healthy relationship with food that may have lifelong benefits.
We are providing suggestions to assist you in building positive eating environments; tips to help kids listen to hunger and fullness cues; and examples of how to teach nutrition in a positive way.
Create a Positive Eating Environment:
Mealtime is a wonderful time to connect. The goal is to make meal time as pleasant as possible. Below are some strategies to help you out:
- Create a relaxing and calm atmosphere. Try moving electronics such as screens and toys away from the eating area to minimize distractions.
- Schedule meals and snacks at regular and consistent times .
- Avoid offering food outside meal and snack time(s).
- Engage in mealtime conversations that have nothing to do with nutrition. We have created some great examples for you! Click here to download conversation starters.
Encourage Kids to Listen to Internal Hunger & Fullness Cues:
As educators, you can help empower students to listen to their bodies by following the Division of Responsibility. In general, kids have the innate ability to self-regulate and determine how much to eat. Kids will go through growth spurts at various times and depending on how physically active they are, their hunger levels will fluctuate. It is important to note that this is normal!
Kids’ hunger cues may be disrupted if pressured to eat, if food is used as a reward or if food is restricted. Allow kids to determine what and how much they would like to eat from the options you provide at meal and snack times.
Teach Nutrition in a Positive Way:
Focus nutrition education on exploring a variety of foods and on building positive habits such as eating regular meals, getting enough sleep, and moving your body in a way that is enjoyable to you.
Keep nutrition messages positive and talk about food in a neutral way as much as possible. No foods are inherently “good” / “bad” or “healthy” / “unhealthy.” Categorizing food in this way creates feelings of guilt, shame and/or fear towards certain foods.
Help kids understand that each person’s body is different, and we should respect, accept, and celebrate these differences. Kids are constantly shown unrealistic images of beauty in the media. Teaching kids how to look at these messages critically can help improve their body image.
Build Trust with Kids and their Families:
We need to trust that families are doing their best to feed their kids. Allow all foods from home to be eaten unless there is a food allergy concern.
Food security may be a concern for many families. Educators can be an excellent resource for helping to connect families with community resources such as food banks and food programs at schools.
Want to learn more about creating a positive eating environment? Nüton has created resources for nurturing healthy eaters in early learning and childcare, and early, middle, and senior year students. Click here to grab your copy of Nurturing Health Eaters.