We all worry about our kid who likes to eat more than he should, getting an imbalance or overabundance of nutrition. We worry that our other kid isn’t eating enough to support his growing body and immune system. Sometimes that person may be your significant other or even elderly parent. I’ve done some research, and I’ll tell you this is one tough issue… here’s some friendly advice on cooking for kids or other family members of different shapes and sizes without being overly critical or too paranoid.
#1 Be consistent with your food “culture”.
Just as there shouldn’t be short-order cook for each kid, each child or person should not be put on his or her own “diet.” Your family needs a plan, philosophy or, as some call it, food “culture” to follow. This food “culture” is a set of rules that work for your household. Make simple rules. Everyone sits together for dinner. We all taste everything offered. Dessert is offered every night. As you come up with your Food Culture, establish rules that promote healthy behaviors, good food choices and an opportunity for your kids to have some control and independence over their eating. An example of promoting independence is having your kiddos put their own veggies on their plates or choose what starch is served at dinner.
#2. Focus on health and wellness, not body shape or size.
I never let ‘em see me sweat. “Kids, here’s your ice cream. Enjoy.” “Mom, can I have some more?” “Sorry, kiddo, ice cream is a treat and that’s all you get. It’s not going to give you the power you need for gymnastics tomorrow. If you’re still hungry in 20 minutes, I’ll slice up some cucumbers.” As your kids grow, they’ll bring questions about their bodies to you. One of their friends calls herself “skinny” and another “fat,” and your daughter will want to know what you think of her body. Tell her that you love her the most in the world, and it doesn’t matter what she looks like, but it really matters that she’s as healthy as she can possibly be (which is why you keep trying to get her to eat the turnips). Don’t just say it. Believe it.
#3. Expect changes.
Listen, there is a method to this growing-up thing. Babies and kids get plump. Then they get taller. Then they get plump. Then they get taller. Do not mess with this process by putting your babe on a diet, unless there is a medical reason to do so. Restricting calories and not meeting your child’s needs is extremely dangerous. Overfueling your kid can have backlash too. Let puberty reveal what is to become of your child’s body by offering a healthful diet, making sure physical activity is as important every day as brushing teeth and making sure your kids get enough rest to recharge their bodies. The gangly kid who is “all arms and legs” will fill out. The pudgy and round little one will lengthen and redistribute. Hormones do amazing things.
#4. Walk the walk.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your own experiences and observe others with your kids. You can compare two puppies’ shapes and sizes to start a healthy dialogue with your kids. You can talk about your own sister who got tons of attention as a ballerina and your success in field hockey. You can share your fears that if your children aren’t eating healthfully, they may have problems that come from poor food choices. Remind them (and yourself) that we each get only one body, and it may not look like anyone else’s in the family, but it’s up to you to take great care of it.