Saturday, October 25, 2008
Last week my husband, my daughter and I had lunch with some friends. I forget why now, but my husband mentioned how we do not force our daughter to eat anything. We simply present food to her and allow her to choose whether and how much to eat. Our friends asked us how we get her to eat things like vegetables, if she doesn't eat them. Well, we've made a commitment to live by the division of responsibility in child feeding (developed by child feeding specialist and RD, Ellyn Satter). These are: 1) Parents are responsible for what, when, and where children eat and 2) Children are responsible for whether and how much. Therefore, it is up to us to purchase, prepare, and serve a variety of healthful foods to our daughter and to trust HER to eat the right amount that she needs.
There are certain food items that our daughter doesn't eat (i.e., broccoli as of late); however, we do not force, push, or coax her to eat them. We offer a food to her, and she makes the decision as to whether or not she'll eat it and how much of it she'll eat. Even though she has turned down broccoli on several occasions, she's also eaten it on others. Sometimes it takes a child (or really anyone) up to 15-20 exposures before he/she will even try a food or try it AND like it. Heck, I used to HATE cottage cheese, but somehow one day I tried it as an adult and actually now like it. Go figure! It's our job to continue giving her the opportunity to try the broccoli. If after the first time she turned down broccoli we did not offer it to her ever again, she'd never really have the opportunity to try it and/or like it. There may be some foods that a child never eats/likes, and that's fine. There are some meals in which our daughter doesn't eat much at all, and that's okay. The beauty of the division of responsibility in feeding is that we do not worry that she's not getting enough nutrients since we know that we offer her a variety of healthful foods and she does eat many of them (just not always broccoli). This allows her to rely on HER internal cues (rather than external cues from us) to determine exactly how much she needs to eat while also being exposed to a variety of healthful foods.
These are difficult concepts for some parents and caregivers to grasp. I think it can be especially difficult depending on how their parents nurtured their feeding relationships or because as parents we often worry about the health and well-being of our children. Personally, practicing these principles has been helpful in relieving some of the pressure during feeding time for us and actually makes our meals much more relaxing and enjoyable, and that's really what I want to encourage in our daughter...a healthful AND enjoyable relationship with food and eating.