When, where, why and what awareness exercise

This simple awareness exercise will help you to identify the triggers that lead to your child asking for - or being given - unhealthy food or drinks.

Ginger girl

When we become more aware of the triggers of a behaviour, we are able to start making changes. By reflecting on the times when your child asks for, or you give, unhealthy food, this can help you to see why this is happening and help you to make changes - covertly - to  limit the amount of unhealthy foods or drinks that your child consumes. For example, many of us have been known to use food as a distraction!

The when, where, why, and what awareness exercise might allow you to see:

  1. When unhealthy foods and drinks are being consumed - for example, around nap-time, late in the day.

  2. Where unhealthy foods and drinks are being consumed - for example, at home, in the car or pushchair, at a grandparent's house.

  3. Why unhealthy foods and drinks are being consumed - for example, are they used as a distraction, reward, to cure upset, as a treat, because children see them in the cupboard or fridge?

  4. What unhealthy foods and drinks are being consumed - for example, fast-food, sweets, crisps, biscuits, fizzy drinks.

Here's an example.

When: Often at around 3pm.

Trigger: Your child may get hungry around this time and then request unhealthy snack foods.

Action: Try to anticipate this and give them a healthy snack before their hunger gets too strong.

Where: In the pushchair. 

Trigger: Are you offering food to keep your child from getting bored or to keep them quiet?

Action: Consider other ways of keeping your child entertained, rather than using unhealthy snack food or drinks. If your child is truly hungry or thirsty, offer a healthy snack or drink of water.

Why: Because there are unhealthy foods in the kitchen cupboards.

Trigger: Does your child request unhealthy snack foods when they see them in the cupboards?

Action: Try limiting what unhealthy foods you have at home so that your child is not exposed to them. What you do not have, you cannot give.

What: Junk food.

Trigger: Do you tend to give your child unhealthy foods when you are short on time?

Action: Try to avoid going into fast-food outlets or offering unhealthy snacks and explore other alternatives that are quick and easy. For example, frozen vegetables take only 2-3 minutes to cook and opening a tin of fruit takes just seconds.