When parents have a child, who lives in a larger body it can be hard for them to know how to approach the concept of healthy eating. It is important to treat larger bodied children like they would smaller boded ones. All family members should be encouraged to eat mainly from the 5 food groups, with discretionary foods “sometimes and in small amounts”. A family member shouldn’t be excluded from eating a particular food or participating in a social event because of the size or shape of their body.
Tips for families supporting a child in a larger body include:
Include all foods
Parents should aim to focus on healthy eating most of the time. This means encouraging everyone in the family to avoiding sweets and treats to the size that might cause a tummy ache but DO INCLUDE them within social events and for enjoyment. If your child does “over-do” it, use it as an opportunity to teach them about responding to their bodies cues and problem-solving how they could perhaps avoid discomfort next time.
Avoid pressure or embarrassment
Don’t embarrass a child for liking (or disliking) a certain food. Taste buds are not influenced by the shape or size of our bodies. Instead encourage them to explore and try new foods. Make use of words such as “you might like to try” or “we can give it a go” to raise their confidence in exploring healthy foods. This language is powerful and can re-write comments like “you won’t eat that” or “I’m not buying it if you don’t eat it” that might have been used in the past.
Speak openly about appetite for nourishment and its role in keeping us alive. This can be a strange concept for children to understand and needs to be done in an age-appropriate manner. You might explain concepts around sleep and rest in a similar way as eating, appetite and nourishment.
Create a supportive environment
Support larger bodied children to have a positive environment for healthy eating. This means having healthy meals and snacks available within the home and school environments. It means avoiding buying large amounts of “sometimes” foods. It means planning meals and having a few “go-to” meals when life is hectic or work and school days don’t run to plan. It means speaking positively about food and bodies and avoiding labelling foods as “good” or “bad”.
Help and seek help
Supporting children living in larger bodies to have healthy food intakes needs to be supported by the whole family with a “we’re all in this together” approach. We support families in learning how to live healthier lives and help kids and families to develop positive relationships with food and their bodies.