Part of raising girls is helping them to love and respect their body through eating well and making good decisions around food and diet. The flip side of teaching them healthy habits is that we may worry that they start to obsess too much about what they eat and how they look.
During the pre-teen and teenage years, girls can become more body conscious and influenced by their peers. How can we educate our daughters on healthy eating habits in a way that empowers them to make healthy choices and have a balanced mindset? The tips below are what I practice with my own two daughters to try and achieve this. I hope you find these useful.
1. Teach the importance of eating real food
Older children easily understand the concept of eating food that is free from chemicals and artificial ingredients. I talk to my girls a lot about eating wholefoods or real food, they understand this vocabulary and it makes sense to them.
Part of teaching them to eat real food is explaining to them that by doing this, they are being kind to their body. This helps them to learn to respect their body and to see the importance of not putting chemicals and artificial ingredients into it. The same rule applies to skincare and makeup because everything you put into AND on your body is absorbed by your cells.
We have regular talks about the importance of being kind to your body by eating wholefoods and using natural skincare.
2. Focus on healthy fats and protein
Healthy fats and good quality proteins are vital for blood sugar regulation and hormonal balance. Gently educate your girls on the importance of healthy fats in their diet. This doesn’t need to be an in-depth conversation. When you are in the kitchen or making snacks together, ask them if they know which food is the healthy fat. Let them know how great fats are at keeping their hormones balanced.
Use language that they understand and are comfortable with, for example, my eldest daughter loves avocado and she now knows that avocado is a healthy fat and that healthy fats make for easier periods. At 13 yrs old she doesn’t need or want any more information right now. However talks like this, as we are preparing food in the kitchen together, can lay a foundation of empowering information.
3. Allow plenty of healthy, guilt-free treats
I believe healthy homemade treats can be enjoyed guilt-free on a regular basis. Making something like these grain-free chocolate chip cookies or this chocolate orange cake allows my daughters to happily indulge and not feel that their diet is in anyway restricted. They then focus less on store-bought treats or processed snacks that they see other children eating.
4. Practice the 80/20 rule
This means that what you eat 80% of the time lays the real foundation for your health. Allow for 20% flexibility. This is often necessary as children get older and become more independent. For pre-teen girls it is often when they are at birthday parties and sleepovers that they will be exposed to more processed food. As teenagers become more independent and go out with friends they may want to eat what everyone else is eating, including junk food.
I don’t want to create guilt or disordered thinking around food so I tell the girls to go out and have fun, enjoy being with your friends and eat what you feel like eating. What’s important is that you are having a good time and remember that you eat so well the rest of the time that your body can handle it. I do have one caveat though and that is to stay away from the fizzy drinks. It’s a delicate balance, but this approach is working for us.