5 Introductory Tips to Raising an Intuitive Eater
Updated: May 28
Babies are born with the innate ability to listen to their hunger cues, it is us, adults that push them away from naturally being able to regulate their food intake, as we are so obsessed with making them finish what they have on their plate, and restricting certain foods. Let’s change this, let’s let kids hold onto this innate ability to know their own bodies throughout their childhoods and into their adulthood. Let’s take the pressure off ourselves to get every mouthful into them and instead provide support and structure in raising competent eaters who enjoy a wide variety of foods and can successfully navigate their way through the food environment.
So what is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive eating is the ability to regulate our food intake using our own innate internal hunger and fullness cues. Intuitive eating also means eating without guilt or moral dilemma, rather than external rules or restrictions.
There is a huge pressure on parents to raise ‘perfect’ little eaters these days, so much so that mealtimes can be a hugely stressful event for both the child and you guys, as parents. We have developed unrealistic standards to create these ‘perfect’ eaters and in doing so we have put so much pressure on kids to finish their plates, that kids are detaching from their internal hunger and fullness cues.
There is also pressure on you guys as parents as to what you chose to fed your little ones. There is so much fear-mongering in the media these days about different food groups being bad for us, such as sugar, diary and gluten. How many of you have tried giving up gluten because you thought it might help you lose weight?! The truth is there is so much nutrition misinformation out there, that is has lead us to not only restrict our own diets but also micromanage what your kids are eating. Some children do genuinely have an intolerance or allergy to certain foods and they do need to avoid certain food groups. But if you don’t there is no need to cut out any food groups. Cutting out food groups in childhood can go onto cause guilt and shame around these foods, meaning they may be eaten in secret during adulthood. It can also cause binging or over eating of these foods as soon as they have the freedom to shop for themselves.
When we control and restrict certain food groups we can lead children down the pathway of eating in the absence of hunger, disinhibited eating (losing control around certain foods) and sneaking or stealing food.
Kids aren’t born with the idea that some foods are good, some bad, some healthy or unhealthy. Kids don’t associate food with guilt or shame. Kids don’t naturally put certain foods on a pedestal, they just eat it and enjoy it. Until they hear their parents, or nursery teacher or their auntie talk about being ‘naughty’ because they ate some chocolate. Or they are having a good day because they ate a salad for lunch. Giving foods a moral value is something we learn. This can lead onto causing shame based eating as children get older. So let’s not let kids learn this! Let’s instead talk about food all on the same level, not labelling good or bad, just simply calling the food what is it!
So what is it we want to do?
Raise kids with a good varied diet, one in which they don’t value certain foods over others and are not restricted to certain food groups. We want children to hold onto that innate ability to listen to their body about when and how much food they need, we want to RAISE INTUTIVE EATERS.
Role modelling is a really key way that kids learn the concepts of balance and variety and non-judgemental foods. Unfortunately for most of us it has been embedded into us the very terminology we are now trying to come away from so be kind to yourself throughout this, the fact that you are even reading this blog is step one to raising an intuitive eater.
Below are some tips to get you started with raising an intuitive eater
1.) Don’t value certain food other others, for example, refrain from saying phases such as “when you have finished your vegetables you can have your pudding” this is putting the pudding on the pedestal.
2.) Avoid labelling foods as good or bad, or healthy and unhealthy. This can lead onto eating in the absence of hunger, disinhibited eating (losing control around certain foods) and sneaking or stealing food.
3.) Avoid restricting food groups, especially if your child doesn’t have an intolerance to that food group. Restricting food groups can lead onto disordered eating with these foods.
4.) Listen to your child’s innate hunger and fullness cues. Look for the cues that they are full, such as getting distracted and turning their heads away.
5.) Role Model eating a wide varied diet. We want children to be surrounded by people eating a really good variety of foods from all food groups, learning the concepts of balance and variety.