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Teaching chow pups moderation

One of my pups is a chip off the old chow block. He spends a great deal of time thinking about what he'll be eating next. He likes to cook and bake with me and even reads cookbooks and food magazines. He's actually brought me recipes on several occasions that he wants to try. In a lot of ways, this is really great, but how do you teach moderation without creating food "issues". He's a lot like my mom was at the same age (he's 5) and my grandmother turned her into a fat kid probably in part by making an issue of everything she ate. He ice skates and spends a lot of time outdoors, so activity isn't an issue, but it wasn't with her either. Any words of wisdom?

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  1. Just be honest, and model moderation. No issues, just provide a variety of reading material and activities (which it sounds like is already in place), and carry on conversations about other things without making it a big deal.

    1. Just read this article today. It doesn't precisely address the issue you raise, but it might give you some ideas.


      2 Replies
      1. re: small h

        Thanks for this smallh. I was a chubby kid and the shame just made me eat more. I love that this kid turned his struggles into a positive and loves doing his videos and snack challenges. And that the family is portrayed as still struggling with healthy choices every day. So many health and fitness types become all-or-nothing evangelists.

        1. re: julesrules

          You're welcome. I think it might be inspirational to kids in similar situations to see that one of their own has had some success in a way that seems achievable (if not exactly easy).

      2. Don't let him overload his plate and enforce the idea of a "proper" portion. Remind him that he can have more servings when he finishes the first ones. A big factor in overeating is too much on the plate. It tricks our brain about how much we've eaten.

        1. I had trouble learning moderation when I was a kid. Looking back, my mom is pretty sure I either couldn't recognize the sensation of fullness, or something was off in my wiring and the signals for fullness never got through to my brain. At three years old I could easily eat a pound of green beans in a sitting, and still want more. I would sit at the table with a distended belly, and ask for more. I loved pretty much any food, and want to eat it all.

          My mom had to give the babysitter strict instructions to not give me more food than she (the babysitter) thought was reasonable. The babysitter was an older woman with two grown children and many years of experience in childcare, so she had a decent eye for appropriate child-size portions. For family meals (pretty much every dinner and most breakfasts), my mom prepared and served standard 4-serving recipes for a family of four. She would serve me about half a serving of each dish, and I could get the second half if I still wanted it after a few minutes of family conversation. By middle school or so I had learned to self regulate. I think getting involved in cheer leading and basketball helped a lot because I could tell I was slower and less agile at after school practice if I had over indulged at lunch.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mpjmph

            Mpjmph, are you, or were you, a fast eater?

          2. I believe a child of that age is old enough to understand the types of food our bodies need. We talk about "everyday foods" and "sometimes foods" in our house. Without getting to hung up on issues of weight, I focus on the idea that some foods are better for our bodies and so we have to eat more of them. I also find it helpful to be really generous with the veg part of our meal; they don't usually ask for more veg but will eat what is provided. If one of my sons wants more food and he's had enough "sometimes food" he is offered fruit.

            1. Well, you know not to make an issue of the food he wants. Yes, as others have suggested, you and his father will want to model moderation. I've been down this path with a child; I've struggled with eating issues and weight myself, and I never wanted to influence my kids negatively. I was careful in many ways during their growing up days.

              One of my kids has a weight problem, and others don't. It may be that your child will have a weight problem no matter what you do.

              But worrying about food is crazy making for you and for your child. Practice moderation, and don't keep junk food in the house. No soda. When you have dessert, make "lighter" recipes, and don't make a lot. Ice cream should be become an every so often treat. Encourage realistic portions. Don't eat giant portions yourself.

              This is hard. You won't always do it right. You child may still have weight issues in the end. The hardest thing is forgiving the child for being himself. But that you must do as well. And forgive yourself.

              1. Different kids have different metabolism level. If he is indeed overweight, then it is important to address this early than later. I love foods like anybody, but I make no qualms between "taste" vs "health". Moreover, tasty foods and healthy foods do not have to be mutely exclusive.

                Teach your pup about the important connection between foods and health -- good diet lead to pleasure in life and health in life, while bad diet lead to horrible results in both.

                There is a very famous Chinese idiom: "吃飯八分飽" --which literally means "eat until you are 80% full" (never try to be actually full). In practice, it means one should eat until you are no longer hungry, but not to try to get a "filled" feeling. It is believed that if you eat until you are "filled", then you have already overeaten.

                1. Love all the answers! Just wanted to add that you could also check out some of the very good websites with lower calorie meals. I make these as DH and I must watch our intake but our 15 yr. old is extremely active and could get away with eating anything. He likes the food I make from Skinnytaste, for example, and I always state that this serves x amount of people. This way he knows if he is getting a double portion or just a single. I noticed that he does not overeat as I always start them with a salad. (I actually state portion size for DH but jr. chowhound listens lol!)

                  1. My daughter, age 7, is an absolute Chowhound. She ate everything from day 1 and still does (ok, maybe she doesn't like mushrooms!). It amazes people when they eat with her because of the variety of foods that she will eat and try. I never have to worry about taking her places and finding something for her to eat (my son, on the other hand, forget it!).

                    That said, I worry about how much she will eat and I try very hard to cook in a healthy way, pack nutritious lunches and snacks, but at the same time, don't ban her from having ice cream or cake at the appropriate times -- parties, etc. I encourage her to eat fruit and vegetables, and she is more than willing to do so, so it helps. When we go out, I don't deny her french fries or the like but it is not an everyday occurence. My husband grew up in a house where he was forbidden to eat certain food and forced to eat others and the whole plan backfired because now, at 43, he will die before he will eat a salad.

                    I buy the 100 calorie snacks to keep in the house and my kids know that the rule is 1 per customer so it helps with portion control. She often asks me if things are healthy, and I am honest and she will often choose something else when I say it's not that healthy.

                    Just the other day, I took my daughter to the diner for lunch, just the 2 of us, and where most kids would have chosen a hamburger/hot dog/mac and cheese, she chose the hot sliced turkey plate with mashed potatoes and corn (she said it was because she loves Thanksgiving and it reminded her of Thanksgiving). She even surprised me with that order! And 6 hours later, when it was time for dinner, she was still talking about how good her lunch was.

                    1. My mother always made us implement the "20 minute" rule. If we wanted a 2nd helping of something, we had to wait 20 minutes and then if we still wanted it, we could have it. 90% of the time, we did not want it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. Make only enough of the dishes (particularly the richer ones) so that everyone gets an age appropriate portion. Plate the food at the stove--don't let people help themselves to huge helpings out of a giant serving bowl at the table. I don't have issues with portion control generally but when at someone's house where there's a giant pan of potato gratin right in front of me, yeah I'll have 3 helpings! But no one can keep eating anything that's gone.

                        This is what I do for my husband (who has always eaten until he's stuffed) and I. I make just enough meat or anything rich so that we get modest portions. Sometimes I'll make larger servings of veggies, but even then, if someone is just going to pour dressing all over a second helping of salad, or butter over their green beans, this might not work for you. My husband just uses vinegar on his salad so I make big bowls of it. If I'm just roasting veggies in a bit of olive oil in the oven, same thing--there will be lots of that.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: christy319

                          I wish my parents had thought this way - I might not be the size I am today. Back then the "no dessert unless you eat your beans" mentality made vegetables seem like punishment; sweets a reward. (those grey canned green beans, cooked to death, were indeed vile). Big family meant only 1 serving of any main; as an adult, I gave myself as much as I wanted, and am now wearing most of it. I don't have any children, but if I had, I suspect I would have taken a very different approach.