Hi, I’m Elyse Falk and I am a registered dietitian in Westchester, NY and a mom of 3 wonderful, energetic boys, ages 11, 8, and 4. I initially decided to become an RD because I love good food—you know, the kind that makes your body healthy and strong—and immediately knew I wanted to raise a family that would grow up appreciating good, wholesome food as much as I do.
Through my education as well as my professional and personal experiences, I have learned that both parents and their children must play active roles in cultivating a healthy relationship with food.
As a parent, I am responsible for determining the types of food that are in the home and preparing these ingredients in a way that my family will actually eat and enjoy. In order to do this, I am always planning a day ahead and thinking about how to serve meals that include at least 3 to 4 food groups. Looking at my childrens’ diets as a whole, I ask myself: Did they get their fruits and vegetables for the day? What about lean proteins and low-fat dairy?
But it’s not just about what they eat; I am also in charge of structuring their meals and snacks throughout the day, deciphering how they eat too. My ultimate parental role is to educate my children so that they understand the difference between when to eat foods that “do good things” for the body versus when to eat “sometimes foods,” otherwise defined as those products or ingredients that don’t offer much nutrition for the body.
Something I’ve discovered is that “sometimes foods,” like cookies (my boys love chocolate chip cookies), don’t necessarily need their own place and time. Instead, I find that they should be neutralized in order to eliminate the notion of treats. If they ask for cookies, for example, I allow my boys to eat them with their dinner, a decision which neutralizes dessert so that it is not necessarily the highlight of their evening intake. When I first started combining dinner and dessert, I was fascinated that my son actually went back and forth between eating his veggie burger and cookie at the same time, finishing both without an issue. This also proves how insignificant dessert really is to children; all they’re really hoping for is a “sometimes food” at some point during their meal.
All parents, myself included, need to serve as a role model for healthy eating. One way I accomplish this is by sitting down for meals with my children and showing them how I enjoy consuming delicious, wholesome food. As for the kids, at the end of the day, they are the ones who are in charge of how much food to eat and whether they want to eat certain kinds or not. While I encourage them to try new foods, I won’t ever push them to the point where it becomes an issue. (I do expect them to say, “no thank you” and “please,” though. Manners are important too.)
As my boys get older, they seem to be developing more adventurous tendencies. If one tries a new food, the others seem to want a taste too. (This is incredibly funny to watch as an outsider.) As they’ve grown, I’ve also learned a thing or two about their eating habits. For instance, I don’t celebrate if one of them tries a new food, because as soon as they see my contentment, they’ll stop eating it (it has to do with control). I’ve also discovered that some days they can eat me under the table whereas other days they’re just not as hungry.
Being an RD and working with clients with disordered eating habits has made me particularly sensitive to the way my boys experience food at home. As a mother of 3, I know that food can be both necessary and fun, and yet I’m also aware that it can cause stress and concern at times too.
Laura, my friend and colleague for 10 years, has asked me to join her efforts on Mom Dishes It Out and to contribute my experiences and expertise to give her readers yet another perspective on finding joy and balance in moderate parenting and feeding. I am happy to be a part of this project and hope all the feeders and eaters out there know that it is a constant balancing act, but it is one that is worth every minute.