Talking With Tots About Food and Nutrition

August 3, 2022 Children

Many parents want to raise children who choose and eat healthy foods. They also want their kids to grow up with a healthy self-esteem. To help steer kids in these directions, parents can teach their kids about nutrition and health.
Teaching kids about healthy eating is a good idea, but it can be challenging. Young children may not be able to understand everything about nutrition. Some parents may use language about food that is too basic. For example, candy is “bad” and fruit is “good”. While this may seem helpful, it can be confusing for kids. After all, candy and fruit both taste good. The goal is to keep nutrition talk at an age-level that helps their understanding.

Talking too much about a child’s weight may hurt the development of a healthy self-esteem. Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School recommend parents avoid talking about weight with their children (even if there is a problem) and instead talk about healthy eating.

In the long run, what you say to your child about food and their body may affect how they think and feel about food and themself. Positive talk helps create a good feeling about food and health, while negative comments can affect the desire to eat healthy food and may hurt self-esteem.

The bottom line: In order to be helpful, any nutrition or body talk should be positive and targeted to the age of the child. Keep nutrition talk simple, direct, and positive. Use examples and words the preschooler already knows.
Here are some examples of how your words
can affect your preschooler:


“Broccoli is green and looks like a tree. It helps your body grow bigger and helps you not get sick.”
“Your body is growing to be strong and powerful.”
“Let’s have some fruit. It’s juicy and sweet and good for your body.”
“Healthy kids go outside and play.”


This looks and sounds interesting. Is it crunchy or soft? What does it smell like? I am curious. Maybe I will try this.
I like my body. I can skip around, dance, jump and run. My body can do anything I want it to do. I love my body!

I like sweet food. This sounds yummy!

I am healthy because I love to play outside.


“That candy is really bad for you. You shouldn’t be eating it.”
“Your {body part} is chubby/fat/too big.”
“Stop! You’re eating too much.”
“If you don’t eat {healthy food}, you won’t be healthy.”


I like this candy. It tastes good. I must be bad because I think it tastes good.
There is something wrong with my body. I’m not good enough.
I guess it’s bad to eat when I’m hungry or when I like the taste of food. I am ashamed of myself; I’m bad.
I feel fine, but I better eat that food even though I don’t want to; I don’t want anyone to be mad at me.

What you say to a child about nutrition and their body can be a powerful force in their development, especially when they are learning about food and developing sturdy self-esteem.

Of course, no child is the same so they will hear “nutrition talk” differently. Hearing positive things about food in the early years can create a good outlook from the start and help your child feel proud about their eating and body. Using too much negative language can change their feelings about healthy food and may hurt their self-esteem.


Side-Lying Hold

  1. For the right breast, lie on your right side with your baby facing you.
  2. Pull your baby close. Your baby’s mouth should be level with your nipple.
  3. In this position, you can cradle your baby’s back with your left arm and support yourself with your right arm and/or pillows.
  4. Keep loose clothing and bedding away from your baby.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Cross-Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, use your left arm to hold your baby’s head at your right breast and baby’s body toward your left side. A pillow across your lap can help support your left arm.
  2. Gently place your left hand behind your baby’s ears and neck, with your thumb and index finger behind each ear and your palm between baby’s shoulder blades. Turn your baby’s body toward yours so your tummies are touching.
  3. Hold your breast as if you are squeezing a sandwich. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  4. As your baby’s mouth opens, push gently with your left palm on baby’s head to help them latch on. Make sure you keep your fingers out of the way.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Clutch or “Football” Hold

  1. For the right breast, hold your baby level, facing up, at your right side.
  2. Put your baby’s head near your right nipple and support their back and legs under your right arm.
  3. Hold the base of your baby’s head with your right palm. A pillow underneath your right arm can help support your baby’s weight.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Bring baby to you instead.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, cradle your baby with your right arm. Your baby will be on their left side across your lap, facing you at nipple level.
  2. Your baby’s head will rest on your right forearm with your baby’s back along your inner arm and palm.
  3. Turn your baby’s tummy toward your tummy. Your left hand is free to support your breast, if needed. Pillows can help support your arm and elbow.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:


Laid-Back Hold

  1. Lean back on a pillow with your baby’s tummy touching yours and their head at breast level. Some moms find that sitting up nearly straight works well. Others prefer to lean back and lie almost flat.
  2. You can place your baby’s cheek near your breast, or you may want to use one hand to hold your breast near your baby. It’s up to you and what you think feels best.
  3. Your baby will naturally find your nipple, latch, and begin to suckle.

This hold is useful when: