Creating a Positive Family Dynamic Surrounding Food!
The start of the new school year is the perfect time to get into a new routine when it comes to family mealtime! But we know that even with the best of intentions, changes to your family’s routine can feel overwhelming! So, we talked to Dr. Madhu Mathur, MD, MPH, the Pediatrician and Obesity Medicine Physician behind Lifestyle Medicine Center about family dynamics around food, how to get into a comfortable routine and when it could be time to seek medical help!
At what age does the parents’ relationships with food begin to influence a child’s relationship
Children are always watching and are influenced by parents at a very young age, even as young as 2 years old.
What can parents do to set a good example for their children when it comes to eating?
Parents are the role models, they not only project when and how to eat but they are also choose the quality, balance and portions of foods.
How important are meals as a family in helping children establish a healthy relationship with
Family meals are very important, not only for today, but for when kids become parents as well. Children should think of meal times as a time to connect with family. The food should be nutritious, balanced and served in adequate portions. However, family time should be the focus, not just the food.
Should parents establish rules when it comes to eating and mealtime? If so, what should those
Meal times should be relaxed, a time when family gets together and talks and eats together. Turn off the TV, put away the phones. Get children to help, in an age appropriate way. Bringing food to the table, laying out the table, clearing up, stacking the dishwasher and so on. Keep them involved, meals are not just about eating, they are about catching up, looking ahead. Try and make it interesting enough as an event so that it isn’t just an interruption between some other activity.
When children are picky eaters and parents feel it’s hard to get them to eat healthy foods, what
is the best approach for them to take?
For all children, and particularly the picky eater, involve them in meal planning. For example, have them help put together the menu, ask them to specify the protein, veg and starch at each meal. When kids are involved, it is harder for them to say no to the food. We also show that we respect their choices while maintaining the quality of the meal.
When should parents seek professional help when it comes to their child’s eating and nutrition?
Once a parent feels out of their depth, they should seek help. If there is sustained weight gain, or weight loss, if their lipids and triglycerides are high and so on, they should seek help. Starting early is always best because you may need just a little guidance, rather than altering established patterns that may be difficult to change. But it is never too early or late to seek help. Try and find a sympathetic professional who is not embarrassed to discuss weight with you and your child. You want your child to feel confident, engaged and supported.
Madhu Mathur, MD, MPH, is one of Connecticut’s first certified obesity medicine physicians as well as an experienced pediatrician. She specializes in treating children with excess weight and nutrition issues at Lifestyle Medicine Center in Stamford. She excels in working with the child and parent to bring about changes that have a lasting impact.
2777 Summer Street, Suite 604
Stamford, CT 06905