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Stefanie Tsabar

Neutralize, don’t restrict

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Have you ever considered skipping a birthday party because your child’s tendency to overdo it with the sweets overwhelms you?

Or, what about BREAD and PASTA? Does your child seem to want to eat these these types of foods endlessly?

If so, then today’s blog post is for you!

You will learn how to neutralize all foods so that it’s easier for your kids to recognize (and stop eating) when they’re full, no matter what’s on the table.

The reason for neutralizing rather than restricting foods is that as humans, we are wired to crave things that are forbidden.

If you’ve ever been on a diet, then you understand this perfectly.

The same goes with our kids.

If they feel like the foods they crave are available from time to time, then they release any panic about getting to eat those foods and connect more readily to their body’s needs and true (not obsessive) cravings.

When my son was 5 years old, he would have eaten sweets all day long if I’d have let him. Ditto with bread and cheese.

Now, he’s 9 years old, and a lot has changed.

By assuring him that no foods are off limits, I’ve helped him to tune into his body’s needs more often rather than being swayed by whatever food happens to be on the table.

It’s a process, though. You might see amazing results in one area quickly while other areas take much longer. Hang in there and trust the process. Everything will fall into place.

Here are 3 simple ways to neutralize food.

Serve dessert with the meal.

Most kids see dessert a prize that they want to win. They will do anything to earn it, including overeating and eating foods they are not in the mood for.

For example, when parents tell kids that they have to finish their dinner before getting dessert, they are making an arbitrary assessment about how much and what types of foods their children’s bodies are craving.

In short, they are teaching their kids to ignore their body’s’ signals – all in the name of getting a treat – which can lead to weight gain and a lifetime of dieting.

Instead, neutralize instead of restrict sweets by serving your kids a small child-sized portion of dessert – but no seconds – and allow them to eat it whenever they’d like during the meal.

At the beginning of this process, they will eat it first.

But, over time, as they get used to having a feeling of control over their dessert, they will start to save it until the end of the meal or even go back and forth between the regular food and their dessert.

In essence, when we set a clear and firm boundary with the portion size of dessert and then allow kids the autonomy to choose when they want to eat it, they stop obsessing over sweets.

Serve “forbidden foods” at meals and snacks.

First, what’s a forbidden food? That depends on each family. You know it’s a forbidden food if you don’t want your child to eat too much of it.

For some families, it could be cheese. For another family, it could be bread or pasta or salami.

To neutralize forbidden foods, make a list with your child of their favorite foods. Take the time to make it a fun experience.

Then, buy one or more foods from the list each week and include those foods into your child’s meals and snacks.

For example, if a forbidden food has been cheese, then serve it with family meals a few times each week. When it’s on the table, let your child have as much as she wants of it. Don’t restrict her at all.

If she asks for it at times when it’s not being served, gently tell her that you’ll be serving it again in a few days.

If you offer these foods periodically without judgement, your child will stop feeling restricted. Instead, she’ll enjoy them fully, but in moderation.

Quit the commentary about junk food.

When we constantly tell our kids that the food they are eating – or want to eat – is junk, they don’t lose their craving for them.

They typically want them more.

However, they begin to feel ashamed of themselves when they eat these foods because they know they are disappointing you.

Studies show that shame is toxic and instead of inspiring kids – or even adults – to change their behaviors, shame makes them dig in their heels even more.

They feel so badly about themselves that it seems to be no use to try anything different.

Moreover, when kids think that their parents don’t approve of the food they want to eat, they begin to hide it from them.

At school, they start to trade food with their friends or they will sneak food at home when you’re not looking.

If your child is little, now is the time to get this right. However, you will see success even if you’re child is older and displaying some of these behaviors already.

The answer is to neutralize all foods instead of restricting them by letting your kids enjoy whatever food they are eating without comment.

In general, stock your kitchen with healthy foods and serve forbidden foods from time to time. Then, no matter what is on the table, allow your child to decide how much they want to eat from those choices.

Other articles you may like on this topic:

3 Strategies to Kick Sweets and Snacks Off Their Pedestal
How to Teach Kids to Pass on Sweets (if they’re full)
3 Steps to Ending Kid’s Obsession with Dessert

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