By Guest Contributor, Jennifer McGurk, RDN, CDN, CDE, CEDRD
The Westchester Rockland Dietetic Association welcomed Jill Castle to our fall meeting to talk about feeding in children. As a dietitian and mom of picky eater, I was equally excited for this workshop professionally and personally. Jill and Maryann Jacobson wrote the book “Fearless Feeding” and the book has helped me figure out how to feed my baby throughout his life so far.
Despite my best effort to do the right things, I’ve made many mistakes feeding my toddler. After all, I’m human! My reality of being a busy working mom sometimes conflicts with the patience and time needed to feed a toddler. But as I learned in her workshop, it takes a lifetime to raise a healthy eater and I am learning as I go.
I learned many lessons for both my professional and personal life. My take-away points from the workshop include:
- As parents, we really don’t know what we’re doing! But we have the ability to change. 95% of parents believe healthy eating is important. But 80% of parents believe they have no control over picky eating and 75% give in. 30% of moms give themselves a “C” when it comes to knowing the right mix of nutrition for their baby. We have to switch gears and get out of the “short-term” way of thinking about kids and nutrition (aka getting kids to eat healthy food NOW and parents feeling frustrated in the moment). Rather, we have to think “long-term” and set the foundation for raising healthy eaters.
- Food and nutrition (“what” kids eat) is not the only important feeding strategy. The “how” and the “why” are just as important. The “how” is how to teach parents to feed in an authoritative feeding style and keeping it positive. The “why” is because children are in various stages of developmental stages and have different temperaments. The best way to feed a child is with structured meals and snacks with boundaries and limits. But parents should give children choices at meals and never force kids to eat.
- Ellyn Satter’s “Division of Responsibility” is the top method of feeding. The parent determines the location of feeding, what to give at the meal or snack and the timing of the food. Parents should serve balanced meals with all food groups, and also 1-2 foods they know their child will eat (even if this is bread and milk, that works fine!) The child determines whether or not they are eating in the first place and then also how much they will eat. When these “jobs” are crossed, problems arise with feeding and eating.
- Teach children hunger and fullness. Adults take note! Children are born with the natural ability to self-regulate food intake, especially if meals and snacks are served in a structured environment. As children get older, environmental factors sometimes ruin this ability. Adults should never tell children to “finish their plate”, or “if you don’t eat everything now you get no dessert later”. Rather, we need to put words to our children’s feelings around hunger and fullness to develop an internal sense (“Is your tummy full?” or “Does your tummy feel hungry?”. These natural instincts can get de-regulated if we don’t.
- Children have different eating styles and we need to work with them, not against them. The “Eager Eater” is adventurous and will at least “try” most foods and will eat a good variety. These are the kids you always hear about! Don’t worry if this isn’t your child, it’s certainly the opposite of my child too! This is only 10% of children. The “Cautious Eater” is slow to accumulate foods, they may have sensory issues or be “super tasters”. They are resistant and have a limited diet and variety of foods. Most kids are “in between”, in which they accumulate food over time with exposure. It “takes a childhood” to amass a varied diet.
I would highly recommend Jill Castle’s Fearless Feeding workshop for any dietitian or mom! Contact Jill here: http://jillcastle.com/