Photo credit: Michelle Loy (top) and Kristin Eldridge (bottom). Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
As I contemplated a topic or theme for my blog this month, I could only think of one - love. How cliche, right? Love for February? Well, I thought I would focus on love for our littlest sweethearts, our children. I have two little angels of my own, and I love them to pieces. If I've learned anything about love since having my little ones, it is that I am capable of loving a lot more than I ever imagined I could! In the last few years, I've also learned that love is more than a feeling. It's also an action and a choice, and that's what brings me to this post today. We have a lot of ways to to act on that love: spending time with them at home, showing up at their special events, giving them lots of affection, or showering them with gifts. I'm going to suggest that we also choose to love our children by nourishing them well and fostering a healthful relationship with food, eating, and their bodies. As parents, family, friends, caregivers, teachers, or just someone involved in a child's life, you have the power to significantly and positively influence what children eat, how children eat, and how they relate to their bodies.
Even before a child is conceived, parents have the opportunity to nourish their own bodies well in order to support a more healthful pregnancy and baby. Optimal nutrition and health during pregnancy also impact the growth and development of the baby. In fact, a growing body of evidence suggests that many chronic diseases and illnesses may be linked to an infant's experiences in the womb.
Once baby is born, there is the decision about whether or not to breastfeed. Some health professionals propose that food preferences and eating behaviors may be impacted by this. Breastfeeding is definitely linked with positive health outcomes from infancy through adulthood.
From childhood to adolescence, parents and caregivers are responsible for determining what, when, and where children eat. Also, what we eat, how we eat, and how we relate to food and our bodies also strongly impacts our children. If children see us skipping breakfast, then they are likely to develop that habit, too. If they see us consuming nutrient poor foods on a regular basis, then they will likely develop preferences for those foods, too. If they see us in a constant cycle of "dieting", then they are more likely to fall into those patterns, too. If they hear us criticizing our bodies, they are likely to do the same.
I believe that we have an extraordinary opportunity before us to leave our children with a wonderful legacy of health and well-being. In addition to lavishing them with kisses and hugs, let's also provide them with a variety of high quality, nutritious foods. As we cheer them on at their soccer games, let's also nurture positive eating behaviors and attitudes about food, eating, and their bodies. Let's choose to love our children in these ways because they deserve it!
What steps will you or do you take to love your children in these ways?