Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen have written an excellent book — Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School — to help parents get their kids to be healthy eaters without fighting, bribing, or guilt. Posting on Lisa Leake’s “100 Days of Real Food” blog, they discuss ten common mistakes that parents make at different points of a child’s development. One big mistake in infancy is not having a baby sit at the table while the rest of the family is eating. Feeding a family in waves is not a good idea:
Babies learn to eat by watching others. Yet it’s not uncommon for babies to be fed separate meals all by their lonesome. This often translates to little ones getting the same food over and over, instead of a larger variety. It’s important for parents to know that between the ages of 6 months and 2 years, children are the most open to new food. Serve them the regular meals you’ll want them to eat later — sandwiches, omelets and stir fries — and eat together as often as you can.
Castle and Jacobsen offer great advice to parents on how to manage their typically picky toddlers:
In toddlerhood, children become skeptical of new food and previously accepted items (especially veggies). Most parents don’t understand that picky eating is a normal part of development and they may begin to bribe children with dessert, insist they eat a certain amount, or cater and only provide foods they know their child will eat. All of these things make picky eating worse and negatively affect self-regulation. We recommend the Ellyn Satter Division of Responsibility where parents decide the what, when and where of feeding and children decide the whether andhow much of eating. It melts away the battles, keeps eating enjoyable for all, and makes children feel more confident with eating.
On the subject of dessert, it’s important for parents to realize that dessert isn’t always cookies and cakes and ice cream. Parents need to be able to offer the choice of fruit or nothing as dessert options as well. (Remember, “nothing” is a choice kids can make all by themselves.) Same goes for meal-time beverages: milk, water, or nothing should be the options at most meals.
One last mistake parents make is not planning meals in advance. This is especially hard when one or both parents are not handy in the kitchen:
When parents fail to plan weekly meals, it increases stress at the dinner time hour and inadvertently decreases variety. Try planning meals on the weekend by looking at the schedule and deciding what’s best on certain days. If you have a late sports practice one day, consider making something in the slow cooker so the meal is ready when you get home. Or you can spend some time on the weekend making meals and freezing them for easy weekday dinners. The key is to keep trying until you find a system that works for you and your family.
Read more Taste Buds posts here.