Top 10 Feeding Mistakes Parents Make
It's easy for parents to get off track with feeding in today's world. Here are common feeding mistakes parents make at each stage (and with themselves), and how to turn things around.
From the Back Cover
- Keep on Puree too Long: Babies have a steep learning curve when it comes to eating during the first two years. Around eight months, most are developmentally ready to pick up small pieces of food and self-feed. Parents often keep baby on puree too long because they either don't know this, or they like the control they have with spoon-feeding (and don't like mess!). Yet self-feeding aids children's self- regulation of food and increases the variety they are able to eat. So give children the opportunity to self-feed early in the game and allow them to learn at their own pace.
- Don't Bring Baby to the Family Table: 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.
- Filling Little Bellies: As babies turn into toddlers things change quickly -- language blooms, growth slows and children become more susceptible to environmental cues around food. Parents often make the mistake of giving into requests for juice, milk and snack foods, which fill up little bellies (the size of a fist) so they don't eat well at mealtime. To avoid this mistake, feed on a structure at a designated place (3 meals and 2 -3 snacks) every 2-3 hours. Keep milk to about 2 cups and juice to only 4-6 ounces per day, with meals. Keep water the drink of choice between meals.
- Get Off Track with Picky Eating: At toddlerhood, children become skeptical of new food and previously accepted items (especially veggies). Most parents don't understand picky eating is a normal part of development and 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 and how much of eating. It melts away the battles, keeps eating enjoyable for all, and makes children feel more confident with eating.
- Banning Bad Foods: Your child will see all sorts of "bad foods" as he enters the broader world of school and community. When children don't have access to treats or other nutrition-poor items they may become over-sensitized to them when they go out in the world. Having moderate exposure to sweets, for example, in the home allows your child to balance them in the real world. Don't make foods "off limits," rather have them as special treats for special occasions or manage them in a way that creates moderate exposure.
- No Boundaries in the Kitchen: If the kitchen is open all day and night, your child will not understand that eating happens on a structure, with intervals between meals and snacks for other activities. He may also graze, overeat and lose his sense of appetite regulation. Create a boundary between meals and snacks by stating, "The kitchen is closed until dinner. It'll be open again at 6 pm," for example. Be sure to make meals and snacks nourishing and satisfying!
- Letting Go of the Feeding Job too Early: One of the hallmarks of adolescence is an increasing independence, and this may occur with food. Sometimes, parents relinquish the job of feeding to embrace this newfound freedom. Unfortunately, teens can miss the mark on healthy choices and food balance in this situation. Don't give up on feeding your teen until he is officially out of the house--he has a lot to learn about nutrition as he prepares for adulthood.
- Avoiding Conversation About Tough Topics: Topics like problematic eating--too much or too little or the wrong types of food--can be uncomfortable for parents to address. The problem is teens often address problematic eating with problematic solutions, such as dieting, fasting, or avoiding important food groups. So don't be afraid to talk with your teen about your concerns. You can open conversation with "I noticed you're ..... Is this something I could help you with?" or "I see that you're unhappy with your weight--how can I help you?" Your teen may not open up at first, but if you are loving and understanding, with repeated attempts, she likely will.
- Not Taking Care of Yourself: Parents are typically so focused on their kids' activities and health needs, they often forget about themselves. Yet research tells us that parents are powerful role models in terms of the health and well-being of their children. Even when they try to hide things like dieting, unbalanced eating, or disliking their body, kids catch on because they are intuitive creatures and they learn by watching. So make sure you are included in the to-do list and model the same behaviors you want your child to emulate.
- Not Planning Meals: 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.
From deciding when to introduce solids to helping vegetarian teens make healthy choices, parents confront many issues when trying toget their children to eathealthy meals. This comprehensive book by Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen—both pediatric and family nutrition experts, bloggers, and mothers—explains how eating relates to a child's overall development, how to help children make good food choices, and how to end feeding struggles forever.
Castle and Jacobsen outline an inclusive approach to healthy feeding centered around the three Fearless Feeding Fundamentals: WHAT, HOW, and WHY. Fearless Feeding is an essential guide for parents of children of any age who want to
Understand how children's eating habits relate to their stage of physical and emotional development
Address specific concerns about picky eating, weight problems, eating disorders, food allergies, and more
Relax about feeding and take a "whole family" approach to meals
Fearless Feeding explores feeding kids at every stage of development in order to maximize health and growth and prevent unhealthy attitudes about food later in life.
"This book is a gold mine. Not only does it encompass everything parents need to know about feeding their children, it's written in a very accessible way. I will keep my copy handy and recommend it often."
—Christopher Duggan, MD, MPH; director, Center for Nutrition at Boston Children's Hospital
"The authors consistently distinguish between parents' jobs in feeding and children's jobs with eating to give trustworthy advice that helps parents feed wisely and lovingly and raise children who are competent with eating. 'Satter's Division of Responsibility' in feeding is in good hands with these authors."
—Ellyn Satter, author, Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense
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