How do parents support children in accepting solid foods at 12 or 13 months of age when they are still only taking purees and relying heavily on milk for nutrition? A guest post from Diane Bahr, MS, CCC-SLP, CIMIRead More
Grazing, or offering children frequent (or constant) small eating opportunities, is an easy habit for parents of picky eaters to fall into. In this post, I talk you through why it is worth addressing.Read More
In this article, I explore reasons why some toddlers struggle with sitting at the table for meals. And I offer two strategies which will help. Look out for my free 'toddler dining chair checklist'!Read More
At the heart of my work with the parents of picky eaters is a secret. An idea that is extremely simple and yet can be very hard to accept. I call it 'The Feeding Paradox'. Here it is. 'The harder you try, the worse things will get'
My last post was all about what research tells us about the importance of eating together as a family whenever possible. When I came across a study earlier this week about the impact of feeding children the same meal as the rest of the family, it seemed like the ideal follow on. Eat together - eat the same.Read More
I have a two year old. This means that a lot of my time is spent picking food up from every visible surface (and some less visible ones... it's amazing what the underside of a booster-seat can harbour). Sometimes this is frustrating, sometimes it's plain disgusting. It is, however, essential. Here are three reasons why messy mealtimes are so important:Read More
Here in the UK, our toddlers are the proud winners of the prize for the highest levels of picky eating in whole of whole of Europe. I'm interested in how we achieved that accolade - I've yet to explore eating patterns in other European countries (it's on my bucket list) but I have a sneaking suspicion it might have something to do with hunger. As parents, we feel that it is part of our job to make sure that our children never get hungry. We never leave the house without a snack, no car journey can get under way until raisins have been distributed and every playgroup in the land is punctuated by snack-time.
Children should experience hunger - they should sit down to meals hungry and get up from them full. It's part of the natural rhythm of the day. I'm not talking about the kind of hunger that is born of deprivation, I'm thinking of hunger in the context of appropriate meals being offered at appropriate times.
Many health professionals advocate two snacks a day for young children and that's fine, IF they are also hungry at mealtimes. My message is simple - if your child is refusing food at breakfast, lunch or dinner, cut out the snacks. In fact, I've had dramatically more feedback from readers of War & Peas about my stance on snacking than on any other aspect of my approach. It really does work. So much so, that I'm going to be having a dedicated snack week on the blog, featuring a guest post about 'snacktivism' - one US mother's fight against American snack culture.
Snacking, however, is not the whole problem, it is simply symptomatic of our urge to stop our children feeling hungry. There are several reasons why we do this - children's behaviour is easier to manage when they are not hungry. Food gets used to entertain - bored children are hard work, so giving them something to eat keeps them occupied. Mini-cheddars are handed out like ritalin. Eat this and be quiet. Research into mothers' confidence about their parenting abilities showed that the less confident the mother, the more likely she was to try to soothe her child with food *.
At the other extreme, we give children snacks to show we love them - our warm feelings become transmuted into shiny pouches of cleverly marketed organic purees and weird strips of fruit-glue in 'fun, peelable strips'... And we give them snacks because, at a very basic level, we don't want them to experience discomfort.
This is a tough one, especially for parents who may have experienced hunger born of neglect or extreme poverty when they were growing up. But appropriate hunger is good. Appetite is your friend - if your child can learn to listen to her body's cues, she will be better at self-regulating and will learn when to eat and when to stop eating according to what her body needs. There are clear links between poor self-regulation and obesity later in life. If you mask your child's appetite by letting her graze throughout the day, it will be hard for her to learn how to listen to her body.
If your child is a picky eater, often refusing food at mealtimes, get her weight and growth checked. If she is healthy, try cutting out the snacks for one week. Put up with some bad moods and complaining and prepare to be amazed.
*C. Stifter, S. Anzman-Frasca , L. Birch, K. Voegtline (2011) Parent use of food to soothe infant/toddler distress and child weight status. An exploratory study Appetite, Vol. 57(3), pp. 693-9