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Intuitive Eating for Kids: Lessons from a Candy Conundrum

July 17, 2023
An image of assorted brightly colored candies and an image of a young girl with an angry expression leading one to wonder if intuitive eating for kids is possible.

Can giving your child candy actually open the door to intuitive eating for kids? 

We’ve all been there as parents. Those moments when we wrestle with the decision of whether or not to give our children candy. Negative thoughts flood our minds, and we find ourselves questioning our choices: “Here I go again, feeding you junk. What else can I give you? I don’t have time to make healthy snacks.”

Transforming the candy conundrum into a positive experience is not only acceptable, but it can actually be a valuable opportunity for your child’s growth.

Let me share a personal story that highlights the power of turning these seemingly challenging decisions into teachable moments.

The Candy Dilemma: A Moment of Growth

I was out with my son the other day when he asked me for a specific treat he rarely gets: M&M’s. Now, as a general rule, we limit candy in our household. Actually, it’s a pretty firm rule if I’m being honest. Instead, we opt for healthier snacks and mostly stick to homemade treats. However, in that moment, I made a conscious decision to buy him the M&M’s.

Instead of delving into the discussion about the potential negative effects of this particular candy (trust me, I’m cringing just sharing this!), let’s focus on the learning experience it provided and why I chose to give in to his request.

The Joyful Indulgence

Seeing the joy and excitement in my son’s face when I agreed to buy the candy was priceless. We all want to make our kids happy, right? And this treat was something special for him, not an everyday occurrence. By saying yes, I showed him support and made him feel valued.

As we made a special stop just for the M&M’s, he eagerly savored each candy, his grin stretching from ear to ear.

An Unexpected Turn

During our drive home, I heard him express, “Mommm… I think my belly is starting to hurt.”

By the time we reached our house, he was emphatically blaming me for giving him too many candies and complaining that his belly was unhappy. The mind and conversational skills of a 4-year-old never cease to amaze me.

A Child’s Intuition

Upon reaching home, he handed me the partially eaten package, exclaiming, “There’s just too much. They shouldn’t make so much. My belly doesn’t like it.” This presented a perfect opportunity to discuss the importance of listening to our bodies and making conscious food choices.

Acknowledging his observation, I responded, “You’re right, there is a lot of candy in there. Maybe it’s too much for our bellies. I wonder why?” He chimed in, “Yeah, my belly told me it’s not happy.”

The Teachable Moment

Realizing this teachable moment, I continued, “So you can feel your belly then? Is it saying it’s full?”

“No, it’s not happy,” he replied.

“Well, we don’t want an unhappy belly!” I remarked as we walked towards the house. “So, what do you think will make your belly happy?”

“Mommy snacks!” he exclaimed, referring to the variety of homemade treats I often prepare using wholesome ingredients.

“Okay, we’ll get some better snacks for you. But do you want M&M’s again?”

“Umm, no. They’re just a sometimes treat. But not too much. Can I have an apple?”

From Sweet Cravings to Intuitive Moments

And just like that, from asking for M&M’s to recognizing how his body felt and then choosing a more suitable snack, my son learned a valuable lesson.

This is what I hope to instill in my children – an understanding of their body, awareness of nourishing foods versus those that may cause discomfort, and the ability to consciously make choices aligned with their health. It’s about intuitive eating.

While this may seem like a small example, it exemplifies how we can empower our children to become aware of the power of food and make informed decisions.

By supporting and acknowledging their experiences, we can help them develop a positive relationship with food and grow their intuitive eating abilities.

Nurturing Conversations and Choices

As parents, we can be proactive by engaging our children in open conversations about their bodies and the food they eat. Encourage them to listen to their bodies and trust their internal cues of hunger, fullness, and discomfort. Offer a variety of nourishing options and involve them in the meal planning and preparation process. By providing them with an environment of exploration and education, we can equip our children with the tools they need to navigate their own food choices and develop a healthy relationship with food that lasts a lifetime.

Remember, each small step we take in empowering our children’s food choices contributes to their overall well-being and sets the foundation for a positive and intuitive approach to nutrition.

I hope you find this story relatable and discover how important it is to guide our children towards a healthy relationship with food.

What experiences have you had in teaching your kids about making good food choices?

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