July 9, 2019

You Can Educate Your Child’s Appetite

As with behavior, a child’s appetite also needs to be educated.

The natural inherited tendencies of many children are not necessarily toward healthy foods, but rather to salty or sugary processed foods and strong flavors. Letting children freely take unhealthy foods to indulge their natural, uneducated appetite is harmful and may result in a diseased body.

A study conducted by the University College London in the United Kingdom looked at 214 pairs of twins. The study indicated that food preferences for meat and fish are highly hereditary, whereas preferences for fruit and vegetables are derived from education and must be learned. It is a finding that affirms the role of a parent to educate their children in healthy eating.

Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived from 460 to 370 BC and is widely regarded as the father of modern medicine, argued that disease was the result of environmental factors, diet, and living habits. He believed that all diseases originate in our gut. Scientists and medical professionals have recently linked a huge number of diseases to the makeup of our intestinal microbiome.

Our body’s microbiome consists of the trillions of bacteria and microbes that live in our gut and elsewhere in and on our bodies. As well as aiding our digestion, the microbiome helps regulate our immune system, our metabolism, and even affects communication with our brain, influencing everything from our appetite and instincts to our mood. 

What we eat and when we eat powerfully affects the microbiome. It is important to educate our children well so that their eating habits can contribute to their pursuit of a happy and successful experience in life.

The first principle that parents should understand when addressing the issue of health in their family is that health education should begin as early as possible in a child’s life. Habits that are acquired during infancy and childhood remain ingrained in one’s memory for the duration of life. The earlier a habit is acquired, whether it be good or bad, the stronger it will be rooted and the harder it will become to modify. It is never too early to start. For example, breastfeeding promotes the development of a healthy intestinal microbiome.

Second, parents should use their churches and other resources around them to equip themselves to understand and teach human physiology. Parents need to understand how the living machinery of the human body works, so that they can educate the children. They can teach from cause to effect, showing the children that if they violate the laws of their being, they must pay the penalty by suffering disease. It is something that should be instructed patiently, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little—pressing on until victory is won.

Finally, tips on how to make healthful living a family matter include the suggestion that at home, you should offer only healthy foods to eat. At the same time, you should teach your family to “eat by colors” by having a wide variety of colors of fruits and vegetables available at mealtime. This, in turn, will help parents to offer a moderate variety of foods which will help guarantee that necessary nutrients are not excluded from the family diet.

Another piece of advice I have found useful is to set limits on what is acceptable or unacceptable at the table. Mealtimes should be pleasant times of family interaction, so removing cell phones and other distractions will enhance mealtimes. Additionally, it’s important to make sure that the food prepared is delicious and nutritious.

You should also encourage family members to allow their digestive system to rest properly by not eating between meals.

And finally, it is important you make sure that it is safe for your children to follow the example set by their parents. Children learn by imitation from their parents, so be sure to use your most influential and powerful tool. Parents, pray that the Lord will help you to set a good example!

The original version of this commentary was posted on the East-Central Africa Division blog.