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Help Your Child Avoid Emotional Eating Habits

Emotional eating is a problem for children and adults alike. Food is only fuel for our bodies, but many of us believe it can also provide comfort or make us feel better.

Emotional eating can contribute to childhood obesity and long-lasting problems with weight. You can help your child avoid these habits and develop a good relationship with food with these tips:

  • Avoid foods with cartoon characters. Research shows that children think food packaged with pictures of cartoon characters is better than the same food in a different package. Cartoon characters remind kids of happy times and fun, creating an emotional connection to the food. Many kids may demand certain types of food simply because of the fun packaging.
  • Check nutrition labels. Many junk foods have fun cartoon packages. Don’t buy the food unless it is nutritious.
  • Don’t offer food as a comfort. When your child has a bad day, your first reaction may be to comfort them with something fun, such as a trip to get ice cream. It is a common reaction to tell someone to have some chocolate or other food to feel better. This encourages a belief that food helps after tough days, and creates a lifelong habit of reaching for a spoon after disappointments.

Instead of giving your child food, try engaging in a fun activity. Exercise can actually improve mood. Some fun ways to get moving are:

  • Dancing
  • Hiking
  • Jumping rope
  • Roller skating
  • Playing tag

You can find more information on helping your family stay healthy at choosemyplate.gov.

If you’re concerned about your child’s weight, and you’re looking for a pediatrician or family doctor who can help, visit Riley at IU Health to find expert, compassionate care near you.

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