Ditch fad diets and embrace healthy eating habits for yourself and your family.

Interview with Katie Bishop, MS, RDN - Registered Dietitian on the Journify platform

You have worked with specific diets like Paleo, Whole30, Keto, etc. Do you have a personal preference? If so, why?

I have no personal preference when it comes to clients with specific diet plans. In fact, my goal is to first understand why the client wants to follow a specific diet and then discuss the health benefits (or cons) with them. I try to find ways that a client can explore this diet, while also maintaining a healthy eating plan and relationship with food.

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In my practice, I aim to be as transparent and science-based as possible, which means that I usually end up explaining why these diets can actually do more harm than good if not done in the right way. For example, the ketogenic diet was developed as a way for individuals with epilepsy to manage their disease, not for the general population to manage their health.

I often find that people who want to follow a particular diet are not doing it for the right reasons or they have a long history of yo-yo dieting (following strict diets, losing weight, and gaining it back). If the ultimate goal is to be healthier, I try to explore that more with my client, and then we work out a plan that allows them to experiment, but also stay in good health. My goal is that instead of focusing on following a diet, my clients gain healthy habits that will allow them to achieve their goals and also to maintain a healthy diet throughout their life.

Most parents pass on their own nutritional beliefs and preferences when meal planning for their families. In your experience working with kids, what do you think the biggest risks of translating an adult diet to them are?

In my opinion, the worst thing a parent can do is assume their child should have a separate meal, or a “kid-friendly” meal. Children should eat the same food as everyone else at the table (of course unless your child is an infant who can’t exactly eat whole foods yet). Children learn a lot of their beliefs and preferences from those around them, so if you aren’t feeding your child the same meal as yourself, it will be difficult to explain to your kid how a “kid-friendly” diet actually isn’t all that healthy and that instead, she should be eating an “adult” diet.

In addition, parents often end up passing on meal-time behaviors to their children that aren’t necessarily healthy either. A lot of us were raised to finish our meals completely before being allowed to leave the table or be rewarded with dessert. This type of behavior teaches children to not listen to their own hunger and fullness cues, and it also teaches them that sweets are the most enjoyable part of any meal.

Instead, we should allow kids to explore and form eating habits on their own, with a little guidance. For example, serve meals “family style” and let everyone grab their own portions. Offer a variety of foods, but don’t push any one food on your kids. Let them decide what they eat, out of the options you have provided.

What are the biggest misconceptions you've seen parents have about their kids diets?

I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that kids only like “kid food.” Of course, pizza, chicken fingers, and macaroni and cheese can be delicious, but you’d be surprised to find that kids are more open to new things (and healthy things!) than we think. The key is exposure. Most likely, your child is not going to want to try broccoli or kale or Brussels sprouts the first time, and that’s okay! Research shows that it actually takes about 10 different exposures to a food before your kid will try it. Basically you could feed your kid broccoli every night for dinner, but he probably won’t give it a try until the 8th, 10th, or even 15th night.

Another important thing to keep in mind is to not force your child to eat something. This will only reinforce his dislike for the food or scare him away from ever wanting to try it. As humans, we are naturally curious, but also hesitant. With a little patience, your kid will eventually build up the courage he needs to try new foods.

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