Can you recall what your parents made for you on your birthday? Did you get to go to a special restaurant? Did dad make his fried chicken? Mom bake her butterscotch cake? Nana nibble with you on her world famous peanut brittle?
We never forget our favourite comfort food. They form special memories and create pleasant associations with certain foods, flavours and textures. The layers of meaning have an impact that is much deeper than just taste. They become the way we comfort ourselves, treat ourselves or feel guilty. Here is a perfect example of how the message is really about the medium. Attaching meaning and pleasure to food and creating food memories is a great thing when done with love and awareness. It can also go very wrong.
Some of the warning signs that you may want to pay attention to are:
Do you reach for a sweet for your child when they are sad or suffer a small bump or bruise?
Do you serve dessert nightly?
Do you offer "snacks" in front of the TV?
Do you use the removal of a favorite treat as a threat to garner good behaviour?
Do you turn a blind eye when your child is mindlessly consuming food just so you can gain the few minutes of peace?
The better solution is to create positive associations with foods without using words or emotions. Let the positive experience and process speak for itself.
A hug and a snuggle for 5 minutes after a boo-boo lasts much longer and goes deeper into the healing process than any piece of chocolate.
Dessert can signal the end of the work week and the beginning of family time when it is a Friday night special. The net result is fewer empty calories, something to look forward to and a special way of marking time which is something all human beings need for strong mental grounding.
TV munching is all too common and it can create a lifelong association that can be impossible to overcome. Try to set up the policy of fruit and veggies only in front of screens. If you are going to eat mindlessly, let it have value.
Threats don't work and they set up power struggles. Just stop.
As for birthdays, they should be special! A cherished treat or special recipe used only for celebrations help tie generations and memories together. They have timeless meaning. Try your very own childhood favourite on your kids and carry on a tradition or make one up. No time like the present.
About the Author
Theresa Albert is a Food Communications Specialist and Toronto Personal Nutritionist. She is @theresaalbert on twitter and found daily at www.myfriendinfood.com