Raising Healthy Eaters- Retraining children’s eating habits

When I put out my request for a guest post for this very last edition of the Raising Healthy Eaters series, it didn’t occur to me at the time that I had the perfect person for the task right under my very nose! Who better than the woman who has taught me so much, and blessed me by raising a husband who eats adventurously and supports me in my nutritional cooking experiments!

Allow me to introduce you to Janet, my incredible mother-in-law! She is a mother to four amazing children (2
grown and married, 2 teenagers finishing their home education),
grandmother to three sweet babies, and lifelong student. I’m not sure that I have ever met someone with such a passion for
learning, growing, and challenging herself. She is extremely
knowledgeable in the areas of health and nutrition, as well as home
education and child training. She’s both a mentor and a mom to me. I
think you will be so blessed by her passion and wealth of knowledge, as
well as her deep love for the Lord and His ways.

Without further adieu, I’ll let her take over and tell you about how we can retrain our children to have healthy eating habits, no matter where we are coming from…

Raising Healthy Eaters- Retraining children's eating habits
Many of us have blown it and made mistakes and have lead our children down the aisle of bad health choices over the years. Some of us have done it though ignorance, continuing the bad habits of our own childhood, unaware that we are not only actively teaching our children the wrong way to go but setting them up for a lifetime of ill health and bad habits which will be both expensive and emotionally costly as well.

Some of us know we need to eat better but tend to justify with “Everyones else eats this so it must be OK.” And some of us know better but find it all so overwhelming and just do not know where to start.

I have been at or through all of these places at one time or another in my early life. But once you become aware that you need to make a change in your own eating and health habits how do you do it? What information can you trust? And greater still is the question, How can I undo all the damage and retrain my children’s flesh to lead them to desire to make healthy choices for themselves?

There is good news. It can be done. The older the child is the more careful or deliberate you must be but success depends largely on how much of their hearts you hold, or how much they trust you. Keeping your children’s heart’s is the single most important thing to do as your child grows up. If they are willing to hear you and have an element of trust in your leadership you most certainly can retrain and educate your children to following you into better health habits.

The first thing you may need to do is apologize for teaching your children poorly or by neglect though your own example. Perhaps you need to confess your ignorance or neglect and then make a statement that you will be trying to improve on your habits and want the children to follow you.

Next you will establish a season of reeducation. Older children in their teen age years already are able to reason and discern well and the first thing to do is to find a good reliable source of information. I have found the best sources are books or portions of whole living books written by people who are passionate about what they believe in (as opposed to text books contracted by educational organizations). Providing them with the information respects them and is renewing their minds and also providing them with the inspiration they need to be motivated as well.

Read to them, as opposed to handing them a book, what you have found to be the first issue you want to tackle, such as harmful MSG or the dangers of high fructose corn syrup, whatever is your first priority. Reading aloud has many benefits in that it allows discussion, clarification and you can see their hearts quite obviously whether they are with you or not.

Be prepared ahead of time and make it a time of study or discovery. If you educate your children at home this will be much easier than if your children are at school, but you can still teach them if you have maintained that the parents are still the primary authority and teachers. (If not, you will need to re-establish this fact right away).

Then set the example. Cook that new way or eliminate that harmful sugar or MSG or whatever is come to your attention. Involve your child in the kitchen or in the new habit of label reading as much as possible. Share with them your successes and failures. Continue to impress on your child the benefits of the new healthy choice will bring them but also warn that there will be temptations and that you expect them to resist.

Establish the standard and expect them to keep it. You may need to revisit the season of reeducation frequently. Be aware that the flesh may well rise up in them especially in the area of sugar or white flour cravings. Treat their hearts gently but their flesh firmly.

The next is up to you to be consistent and firmly establish good eating habits yourself and if you have eliminated something that they desire, learn to replace it with a better and a more delicious choice. Eating healthy is a delightfully delicious experience but to make a radical and sudden change ….well tastes and cravings must take time and education to change as well.

One such instance was when I was teaching my children to choose water over pop. This had never been a problem before but the bonus free pop from our local grocery store on our weekly shopping trip seemed to be too much of a temptation. I persisted. It took some time for me to prove it was not free at all in that it would ultimately cost them dearly in cravings, addictions and bad health habits. (I reeducated) All the while I remained firm. At first water is not a delicious choice comparison but they now prefer water over any kinds of sugar laden chemical drink because they know the trade off they will experience if they choose poorly. I later inquired if water was available instead and it was (but was obscurely displayed). So now we get a free water and they are happy.

And sometimes they will make mistakes out of ignorance as well. I know of one gentle mother who saw her child choose poorly at a buffet. She privately brought it to her attention and required her to remove it from her plate and choose better. The child was not aware that the sugar free Jello meant that it had artificial sweetening and so obediently removed it and chose something else.(This wise mom had the child’s heart).

This method you can use to reestablish habits over and over in almost any area of parenting. Don’t give up. Changes are hard for us as well as your children and recognize that there will be set backs but continue to move forward again and soon new habits will be firmly established and you will not even need to think of what to choose, it will be automatic.

Some very good books to start with are:

Eating Alive by Jon Matsen the first three chapters (remember you do not have to read aloud the whole book- only that which applies the most at that point)

What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!. By Don Colbert

Has isolated chapters on water, and other chapters that apply to some good changes

Take Control of Your Health by Dr Joseph Mercola.

You do not need to apply to his website- just read his book for general knowledge.

The Maker’s Diet by Jordon Rubin

A good recipe and information book to start with is

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

As you read these and some other books be aware that they came from some varying viewpoints. Don’t be discouraged by some contradictions. Stick with the obvious changes that you need to make and you will be able to discern the minor differences later on.

You can visit Janet at her blog, Lifestyle of Learning!

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  1. I have been blessed by your blog! We have recently started on a path toward eating as fresh as possible. I have shared your blog address with the readers of my blog because many think I am nutzo for trying to change over to raw, organic, and whole foods. I shared with them that if a young mom of 2 with a husband who has been battling cancer can do it ANYONE can!!

  2. This is so wonderful and helpful! Thank you for the advice to take it one step at a time. I am so overwhelmed by all the things I “should” be doing. And I appreciate the list of resources too.

  3. I have a question that is totally unrelated to this post, but didn’t really know where else to put it…. As I mentioned in one of my previous comments, I am currently 15 weeks pregnant with #3. My question is about weight gain. Since going mostly whole and healthful, etc. and starting to work out (last summer) I am finding it difficult to gain any weight this pregnancy (which is exactly opposite of the last 2!). I had no trouble maintaining my weight prior, so I’ve not been losing weight but I’m 15 weeks and have only gained 1.5 pounds – which is below where the dr. thinks I should be. If you wouldn’t mind, I would like your input on how to increase my weight the healthy way. And did you have this problem during either of your pregnancies, if so, what worked for you?

    Thank you so much for your willingness to obey God’s calling in your life and share it with the rest of it. It’s greatly appreciated!


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