Parents: Skip talking about weight at the dinner table
Here’s a conversation you should not to have at the dinner table with your teens—weight and weight loss.
A new study found that when parents talked about weight or body size at the dinner table in front of their adolescent children, there was an increased risk for the children to develop eating disorders. Conversely, conversations focused on healthy eating actually helped to protect against adolescent disordered eating behaviors.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders (ANAD), anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents with about 1% of female adolescents suffering from anorexia.
“It’s important to foster healthy attitudes in kids and talk about what matters,” says Dr. Cheryl Donavan-Hunt, a pediatrician with Advocate Medical Group. “While we focus more on issues of obesity in this country, parents can at times feel as if they need to scrutinize what kids eat or talk about weight while eating dinner. It is important to stress healthy choices and nutritious snacks with children and teens, while avoiding food discussions and struggles at the dinner table is critical.”
Dr. Donavan-Hunt agrees that discussion away from the table should focus on healthy snacks—vegetables, fruits, sugar and carb amounts. “Parents can help incorporate good eating patterns by asking their kids to participate in food choices with them—shopping for fresh foods and helping with meal preparation. Have a ‘vegetable of the week’ and learn different ways to eat or prepare it, or talk to your kids about simple ways of incorporating good foods in a smoothie.”
Finally, Dr. Donavan-Hunt cautions, “Be observant of very unusual eating behaviors—purging, meal skipping or eating away from the family table; or unusual shifts in weight gain or loss. Discuss it with your family doctor if you have concerns.”
Need tips on what foods to try? The American Institute for Cancer Research’s fall newsletter offers a variety of healthy foods, including apples, cranberries, parsnips, rutabagas and winter squash. These foods are packed with disease-preventing phytochemicals, fiber and antioxidants that can help keep your family healthy.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.