Creating a Play Food Drawer
In their book Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch discuss the concept of play food. Basically this refers to foods that aren't necessarily health promoting but that we eat for fun and pleasure. In our cultures, we have traditionally called these foods “junk food”, the authors of this book renamed it to remove the negative charge and avoid placing foods into moralistic categories.
One of the concepts of intuitive eating is that we actually have the ability to eat moderate amounts of processed foods if we are mindful and pay attention to our bodies. Most children are naturally born as intuitive eaters. However, when we demonize and ban foods that are delicious to them, it actually increases the attractiveness of that food. Ironically, that may lead children to overeat these foods because it creates in them a sense of scarcity. So even though it sounds completely counterintuitive, having a small amount of these favorite foods around actually decreases the allure of these foods. I know that this may cause a great amount of anxiety for some of you out there. I know it did for me. For years I kept all treats out of the house, not just because I thought it was better for me, but for my children. And believe me, I was always so anxious about what went in my kid’s mouths. But as I have learned more about intuitive eating and the psychology of eating, and begun to heal my own relationship with food, I have slowly learned to loosen the reigns. It has made a huge difference in my life and I believe that it is psychologically healthier for my children. I understand if you hear this advice and think I am crazy. Here is what I invite you to consider: Consider creating what I call a play food drawer. This can be a special drawer or shelf or place in the pantry or kitchen that you assign to your child. Then talk to your child about what special foods they would like to have available in the house. Purchase a small amount of those foods for them and place them in their special area. This is your child’s protected play food that they can choose to eat when they would like. Knowing that they have those special foods there just for them creates a sense of peace and safety and honestly a lot of kids even forget what is in there. You may even want to create your own play food drawer, I know I have one!