If you’re a parent of a child under 3, chances are you worry about how they eat. In fact, according to the Better Health Channel (a fabulous source of plain English health information) eight out of 10 Australian parents worry about their kids eating habits.
From my experience as a nutritionist with an interest in early childhood health, and as a parent, I’d have to say this statistic is pretty much on the money. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Fussy eating behaviours tend to arise out of the developmental changes taking place as babies become toddlers. One of these is a growing sense of self and with this the desire for control and independence. The other is a slowing of growth. Annoyingly food and eating often bares the brunt of these changes.
US feeding expert Ellyn Satter has an elegant solution which involves applying her ‘division of responsibility in feeding’. Simply put parents are responsible for what is provided and when and where. The child is responsible for whether or not to eat, and if they do, how much. It works surprisingly well, and by removing the pressure to eat, meal times can become pleasant family occasions for everyone to enjoy.
The overriding caveat here is trust. Trust in your child to know what they need, trust in yourself to provide good healthy food.
Here’s a few more tips to help in achieving more relaxed family meal-times;
- Present food in the center of the table allowing everyone to select what they like without comment or pressure
- When serving up something new or not especially liked, try to include at least one food you know your children will eat.
- Model great eating behavior; eat your vegetables and make water your preferred drink
- Avoid letting children graze. Keep regular meal and snack times so children are hungry for a meal; hungry children generally eat well.
- Avoid using food as a bribe
- Eat as a family as often as you can
- Allow children to eat to their appetite, don’t insist on a clean plate
If you want to know more about Feeding Families: How to Win the Food War, join me on Wednesday August 6 for a webinar hosted with The Parents Jury.
Click here to register and I hope to see you there….