Week 2 in Series Feeding Your Family
In the words of Ellyn Satter, “Children want to eat. They can’t help it. They are in the business of growing up.” What determines if they develop a healthful and balanced relationship with food hinges on how we, as parents, relate to the food we provide.
So even though at some meals it can EASILY feel like your kids are in charge…you are the real GATEKEEPER!
It’s true. You get to decide which foods will come into the house, which foods will be on the table at meals and snacks, and how the food is going to be prepared.
They are in charge to a degree. They get the choice of which foods they want to eat on their plate and whether or not they want to eat it at all.
This division of responsibility (created by Ellyn Satter) is an absolutely proven method for the past 40 years. It is so solid that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dietetic Association have embraced it with open arms.
What does this mean for you as a loving and caring parent? Essentially, your role is to designate set meal times through-out the day. Provide balance and variety in the food choices offered to your family. Provide a quiet and pleasant atmosphere to enjoy the meal. Then leave the rest up to your kids. End of story.
*no bribing your kids to try, to eat, or to taste anything on their plate
*no discussions about what is left or not left on the plate
*no rewarding children with desserts for skinned knees, eating all of their meal, etc.
*only offering water between set meal and snack times
*No more food battles, power struggles, guessing who is in charge of what
Of course when this new routine is implemented there will be resistance. Just like you might be feeling while reading this: “How is that going to work? I don’t know if I can do this?”
First thing to know, your child will not starve. No matter how picky they are, they will eventually eat. Usually by the next day because like I quoted before: “They can’t help it. They are in the business of growing up.”
1. Your child will trust his/her personal hunger cues
2. Grow predictably
3. Learn to try new foods all on their own, without your coersion
4. Have less risk of developing disordered eating patterns (ie emotional eating, eating disorders, using food as a coping mechanism)
5. Because of the autonomy to take care of such an natural, basic need, they will have increased levels of confidence that you will see transfer to many areas of their lives (such as self-esteem, learning competencies, social awareness).
Step 1 begins with setting the meal times and sticking to them regardless of what your day may look like, what errands needs to be run, what mood you or your family is in. A rule of thumb for meal times is eating breakfast within one hour of waking up, continuing to eat every 3-4 hours until bed-time. (If dinner is a 5 and your bedtime is at 9pm or later-then include a planned and healthful evening snack suck as a piece of fruit and low fat string cheese.)