Raising a Child to Love Their Body

Raising a Child to Love Their Body
By Jennifer McGurk, RDN, CDN, CDE, CEDRD

I was recently out with a group of “mom friends”, having one of those conversations talking about anything and everything related to our kids, all under 1 year old.  Our conversation turned into an honest discussion about raising our children to be anti-dieting, body image-loving, positive self-esteemed individuals.  My friends were worried about being a good example to their daughters, teaching self-esteem, and hoping that their girls will learn to love their bodies.  These moms were especially worried about raising girls, but this is a topic for every mom- mothers of sons included!  I claim to be an expert in this area but it’s honestly something I’m concerned about too.  I had just talked about losing the last few pounds of my post-pregnancy weight 10 minutes before this part of the conversation came up.  My point is that my advice for moms and dads is something I am going to be working on as well.  I think moms can all learn from one another and support each other to raise confident children.

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Here are my favorite tips:

  1. Eliminate fat talk:  Take a good look at yourself and your environment.  Do you criticize yourself in the mirror?  Do you complain about being “fat”?  Your kids will learn from you.  Eliminate this kind of dialogue in your life to other people and especially to yourself.
  2. Feel good about your body:  Replace the fat talk with positive talk.  Do something each day to make you feel good about your body.  One of my favorite tricks is something I heard from a therapist:  Take a tube of red lipstick and write on your mirror “I am beautiful because…” and everytime you look in your mirror, you have to answer the question.
  3. Model healthy behaviors with food:  Show your child a healthy relationship with food by eating balanced meals and snacks.  Don’t restrict and binge.  Have a wide variety of food in your diet, including food from all food groups, including nutritious and less nutritious foods.  Have desserts and fruits and vegetables in your life, and teach your child how to enjoy these foods in a healthy way.
  4. Make time to move with your family:  Exercise as a way to feel good, not just burn calories.  Pick an activity you love and make time for it.  Treat this as part of your self-care routine.
  5. Introduce the concepts of “hungry” and “full” as early as possible:  Children are born with the skill to stop eating when they are full but gradually lose this with environmental influence.  In order to prevent the dieting “restriction” mindset, it’s important to teach children it’s natural to eat when they are hungry.  Therefore, it will be natural to stop eating when full and satisfied.
  6. Do not label food (or yourself) as “good” and “bad”:  Every food is included in a healthy lifestyle, no matter what.  Restriction of “bad foods” can lead to bingeing.  Don’t say “oh I had a good/bad day” because nutrition is not all-or-nothing!
  7. Never force your child to clean his/her plate:  This will alter kid’s perception of how much they should eat.  If they don’t eat at this particular meal, there is always the next meal or snack to make up for missed food.
  8. Talk about how bodies come in all different shapes and sizes:  Respect other body types and talk about how people look different because everyone is unique and special.
  9. Spread the word:  I love movements like “Operation Beautiful”, which spread the message of positive self-esteem and self-worth.  Teach children to participate and have fun doing so!

The Other Kind of Clean Food

Food Safety Guidelines to Teach Your Kids!
By Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CDN, CEDRD

After serving my daughter a fresh, bean-filled empanada from a local farmers market, she spent the entire night serving it back up! She was a statistic, since roughly one out of six individuals contract some type of food-borne illness each year. Just last week I watched my twenty-two-year-old son make a delicious chicken meal. He opened the package, washed the chicken in the sink of my beautiful, newly renovated kitchen, and left all those nasty germs splashed across many surfaces! And you know those annoying shopper loyalty cards? Thank goodness I had one because ShopRite called to say I had purchased almond butter subsequently recalled for possible salmonella contamination!

Safety in the kitchen is a public (and personal) health concern to keep your family free from pathogens that could make us very sick! Young children are particularly vulnerable to food-borne illness since their immune systems are not fully developed. In addition, it is just as important to teach our little ones about food safety during prep, cooking and cleanup, as it is to teach about overall health.

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Here are some CLEAN suggestions
to keep meal and snack times fun and safe for all:



  • Teach your child the importance of proper hand washing in warm soapy water before and after handling food.
  • Wash all cutting boards, bowls, plates, utensils, and surfaces with warm soapy water after exposure to raw foods to avoid bacterial contamination.
  • Clean and scrub raw fruits and vegetables with water.


  • Use two cutting boards—one for raw poultry, meat, seafood, and eggs and the other just for produce.
  • Use different plates for raw and cooked foods.
  • Store fresh and cooked foods separately to avoid juices leaking and cross-contaminating.


  • Invest in a good food thermometer and teach your child how to use it! This is the only way to know if a food is cooked thoroughly. Safe internal temperatures for pork, beef, veal, lamb, and poultry are between 160 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Eggs must never be eaten raw, but should be cooked until the yolks and whites are firm.



  • Bacteria that can lead to food poisoning flourish between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, it is essential to keep food hot, after cooking or to refrigerate/freeze the food within one hour.
    • Thaw food in the refrigerator, or under cold running water.
    • Remind your school-age child that he/she must put his/her cold perishable foods away immediately after using them (i.e. yogurt, milk, cheese, cold cuts, and leftovers!)

While these guidelines may seem like common sense to many of us parents, we often forget to teach our children these important food safety rules.


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Germs Where?

  • Your kitchen sponge is a nasty breeding ground for bacteria. Do keep your sponge clean by microwaving it (wet) for two minutes or placing in dishwasher with a drying cycle. Make sure to replace it periodically.
  • Do regularly clean handles and insides of refrigerators and microwaves with soap and hot water where raw food may contaminate.
  • Do NOT wash your chicken or meat in the sink before cooking it; bacteria counts are higher on countertops!
  • Keep bags, backpacks, and sporting equipment off the kitchen counters! They are teeming with germs.

As your kids come home from school and start preparing their own snacks, these guidelines will need to be reinforced.

Teach Your Child to Avoid Injury in the Kitchen!

  • Keep handles of pots and pans turned into the stove to avoid burns and scalding.
  • Respect the cooking oil—help avoid a nasty burn by using nonstick pans, small amounts of oil, pans with high sides, and invest in a splatter guard!
  • Do not allow your child to use the oven until you are confident he/she can safely manage using oven mitts.
  • To prevent burns, make sure your child can safely reach the microwave. Take extra care in removing food from the microwave oven. Use potholders and uncover foods away from your face so that steam can escape.


While we cannot avoid every hazard that comes our way, with proper techniques we can minimize our family’s risk in the kitchen. If you are interested in learning more about recent food recalls, you can visit: http://www.foodsafety.gov/recalls/recent/index.html