I think I need to start off this post by saying feeding is parenting. You and your partner are, hopefully, on the same page with all other things parenting, you need to be on the same page with feeding too. Actually, you need to be on the same page with both feeding and nutrition (which are two different things). When one adult in the house is concerned about the health and well-being of the family it can weigh on everyone, especially when the second parent is unconcerned. I believe that, on some level, everyone knows that health is important and everyone with kids wants them to be healthy. But health can also be tricky – first of all it means different things to different people. For some, just not being sick is being healthy. For others, being at a healthy weight, disease-free, sleeping well, and with manageable stress is what it means to be healthy. Second, many people hear healthy and think “Uhg! Healthy is boring, healthy is bland, healthy is expensive, healthy is sweaty, healthy is hard!” So, what does one do? Instead of pounding concrete, try shaping clay.
Shaping is how families can get on the same page with feeding and nutrition. In most homes there is one primary shopper and one primary cook. Even in homes where these duties are split, there is always one who is making the majority of the food decisions. That person is the “gatekeeper” and the gatekeeper holds most of the control. The gatekeeper is the one who can shape the families diet and ultimate health by shaping the environment. The environment I’m talking about is the home – what does a healthy family need to have in their home? What do they need to keep out of their home? What does a healthy family do with their free time? How do they get that to happen? If you want to change the health of your family, first, think about what you want your environment to look like. What do you want in your fridge when your kids get hungry? What do you want in the pantry to make meals out of? What do you want in the yard for the kids to play on? What kind of toys do you want them to have to encourage healthy habits? After you assess what you want, assess what your currently have. How does what you want differ from what you have?
Now, begin to shape. Don’t do everything all at one, but make small, almost imperceptible changes.
• Buy one less snack food and one less dessert than usual.
• Buy one more fruit than usual.
• Start serving fruit at dinner.
• Serve two vegetables at dinner instead of one.
• Add a vegetable to lunches.
• Slip in some brown rice or whole wheat pasta when you get the chance.
• Put a pitcher of water on the dinner table and keep one in the fridge.
• Don’t turn on the TV when you get home and turn it off more often.
• Play actively with your children. Make it fun!
Of course, shaping is easier with support. How you talk to your partner about your concerns in the family is half the battle. Pointing out real facts and your feelings about the facts is the safest way to gain support.
“Today I learned that kids are supposed to get 60 minutes of active play every day! I don’t think our kids get that much. I’m concerned that they aren’t as active as they should be and that it could affect their health. What do you think we could do about this?”
This approach frames the conversation of health and exercise in a safe way that comes from a place of concern and avoids placing blame. Try shaping both your family’s environment and your words to get on the same page about nutrition and health in your house.