Building Good Eating Habits For a Lifetime

In today’s world, choosing healthy foods for yourself and your family has become very complicated. We are constantly being told to ‘eat this!’ or ‘avoid that!’, which can take the focus away from what is truly important in raising good eaters and establishing good eating habits as a family for life.

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Many families today are time-poor, which can often lead to eating on the run, meals in the car on the way home, feeding in front of the iPad or TV and many other examples of time-saving strategies to get the family fed. Although this helps make sure meals and snacks are provided regularly (which is a good thing!), if we often eat when we are distracted, stressed, tired or just because it’s a meal time, it can make it much more difficult to stay in tune with our ‘internal’ cues for eating.

‘External’ cues for eating are abundant in our society. Food is everywhere – at the petrol station, the chemist, the sporting field, and unfortunately the healthy choices are not always the easy choices to make when having to rely on foods purchased away from the home. The old saying, ‘you have to finish what’s on your dinner plate’ to either avoid food waste or to earn dessert is another common example of how we may override our ‘internal’ appetite cues to eat past the point of comfortable fullness. Not only does this make it harder to recognize and respond to our own appetite cues, but it can also set up unhelpful beliefs around some foods being worse or better than others.

So how can we become more aware of and respond to our ‘internal’ appetite cues and teach our children these valuable eating skills too?

  • Make time to sit at the table to eat together. Kids learn and gain so much from meals when eaten and enjoyed together with parents. If eating dinner together every night isn’t feasible, aim for one or two nights each week or try having breakfast or lunch as a family on the weekend.
  • Avoid distractions when eating. Turn of the TV and all electronic devices, to shift the focus back on to the meal or the snack in front of you.
  • Avoid rushing through meals. Take time to chew and enjoy each mouthful and recognize when you are comfortably satisfied, rather than just finishing what’s been served.
  • Provide meals and snacks at regular times through the day. This helps children to learn how to regulate their appetite by providing predictable and consistent opportunities to satisfy their hunger.
  • Offer only water between meals and snacks.
  • Trust your children to know when they are hungry or full, and to decide how much food they are hungry for, at each meal and snack time.
  • Keep eating times enjoyable and relaxed. When children (or parents) are stressed, appetite and digestion are both affected.
  • Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding is a fantastic resource with many more tips, information and research on establishing good eating habits in children.

-Steph Young, Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD), On Point Nutrition.steph young

If you would like more information or help with building good eating habits and skills for yourself or your family, contact Steph Young at On Point Nutrition. Steph specialises in helping individuals and families get back in touch with their appetite and build healthy eating habits and skills for life. She has clinics in Jindalee, Springfield, Ipswich and Karana Downs.

To find out more or to book an appointment, contact Ph: 0419 676 324 or email:

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