“let food be thy medicine”
Incorporating a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge if you as a parent haven’t had the scene set in your own upbringing. However, believe me, following simple steps in feeding your whole family will pay dividends. Good nutrition will reduce illness, support positive learning behaviours, reduce irritability and support skin health in addition to positive mental wellbeing.
I teach teens to cook from scratch to use and taste a variety of flavours and ingredients and my own diet as a teen consisted of a high amount of junk food, which I am now sure contributed to my poor mental health. You can make a change at any time, take it slow and know that you deserve to feel good and nourish yourself with natural foods.
It is quite usual to have up to a quarter of my class state their initial dislike of a specific ingredient e.g. tomatoes or onions in any food lessons. I want my students to understand that taste is not static, it is changeable and so I explain that all taste is acquired and through tasting foods a number of times or disguising the ingredient in special ways, they can gain the health benefit – which of course we discuss. I personally grew up convinced I did not like tomatoes, and as soon as I studied the lycopene content, a powerful antioxidant with the ability to inhibit cancer cell growth, I started to add them to everything. Funnily enough I now absolutely love them.
Latest research tells us that we need to taste a new foods 10 times to accept/like and only 7 times if it is mixed with a tomato or cheese sauce.
There is so much evidence to show that taste preferences are acquired or learned and that they can be adjusted, so if you are coming up against resistance, be patient and keep offering foods. We so passionately want our children to be healthy human beings with amazing immune systems, however, this can turn into a power battle and so treading carefully and not allowing our own issues get in the way is important. I have felt this frustration and have really had to step away in past situations and focus on not showing this to my children. Having patience will pay off even if it feels as though it is going at a snails pace and sometimes even moving backwards!
Encourage your child to cook and or prepare dinner with you. Cooking together is a perfect time to engage in conversation and listen to your teen, helping to pull down any defences. If your teen is not interested in getting involved in the kitchen, place it as one of the chores – keep it simple at first so as not to overwhelm. I find that the pupils who are trusted in their kitchen at home have a higher degree of confidence and belief in themselves when cooking in school. My more nervous students usually say things like “my mum says I am a disaster in the kitchen” or “I am not trusted to put something in the oven”. Teach your teen the safety first, e.g. always use an oven glove, check there is no person close by and fully open the oven. Then trust them to get on with it. Yes, to start with your kitchen will be messy and it will take practise for them to multitask, being able to clean as they go. I assure you with trust and gradually allowing them to help, this will not only promote their self-esteem but will also make your life so much easier. My teen is able to produce the most delicious meals and being a working mum, my appreciation for this holds no limits.
Share your knowledge and interest in nutrients, if you have learned that avocados have B6 to lift the mood and healthy fats for the brain, tell your teenager. They love this kind of information and if they can also use the avocado as a face mask – even better! The idea here is to make it fun, plan your meals together, discuss what is healthy and which foods to be eaten rarely.
Nourishing your children can be easier and more fun than you may have been led to believe, be the inspiration and the family will benefit. If I can help you further please connect with me on FB, twitter or Instagram.
Lots of love and health,