Coordinating A Healthy Diet For Your Children
Living between two homes is very common for children of divorced or separated parents, and when both parents are able to work together, it's possible to keep relationships positive. However, while you may know to plan for big things—like who is driving children to medical appointments or where they'll be spending vacations—there are likely several smaller issues that may have escaped your notice.
There will always be slight differences in how parents raise their children, and diet is often one of the areas where parents diverge from one another. But as long as parents are working together to make sure their children's overall nutrition is on point, small differences in how parents approach meals and snacks should not cause too much strife.
Here are 3 big-picture tips to help co-parents keep their children's nutrition on track.
Focus on healthy and whole foods
While there are daily calorie intake guidelines for children of all ages, tracking each calorie a child eats is tough when they're living in two separate houses. It's simply unrealistic to expect many co-parents to communicate in such detail about everything entering their children's mouths.
But if both co-parents are committed to healthy, whole foods being the first option of every meal and snack, it'll be easier to keep their children on a well-rounded diet without needing to maintain a shared food diary.
The one exception is when a child is a particularly picky eater. For children who recoil at the merest mention of greens, it's more important for parents to make sure they're getting the daily recommended amounts of required vitamins and minerals. In these situations, it can be helpful for parents to have a shared journal where they can document their child's food intake for the day. They can also use this journal to share the success rate for different anti-picky eating strategies.
Commit to media-free meals
Mindless snacking and eating are tough habits to break, so it's best if co-parents can prevent the behavior before it starts with their children. The easiest place to start is by committing to media-free meals eaten together. Without TV or phones as distractions, both parents and children will pay more attention to physical hunger cues, which can help prevent overeating.
The added benefit of media-free meals is that parents and children are better able to focus on each other as well!
Plan for meals away from home
Lunchtime, especially when kids get older and have the school cafeteria spread to choose from, can be a minefield of poor food choices for children. Their impulses to grab a sweet treat will not always be surmounted, but that's ok if parents are consistently supplying their children with education and positive reinforcement around healthy food choices.
For parents who are able to do so, packed lunches will help prevent children's daytime eating from going too far off the rails. But if packed lunches are a no-go, parents can still educate their children about picking healthy options from their school's lunch menu.
Nutrition plays a huge role in childhood health, and it's important that co-parents stay on the same page when it comes to overall goals for their children's diets. By keeping their eyes on the big picture—like making sure their kids are getting a hearty mix of whole foods each day and educating them about healthy food choices—they can ensure their children's nutritional needs are being met and that they’re getting everything their young bodies need.