Do you have a toddler who refuses food on a regular basis? Who has an aversion to vegetables, or meat, or anything healthy? As a parent of a picky eater and a health educator, it drives me insane to watch a child throw a nightly fit at the dinner table. It wasn’t until I learned of Ellyn Satter, a well-known nutritionist and developer of the Satter model of eating, that I realized I was doing it ALL wrong! What a shock to learn that parents don’t know everything!! (I am not getting anything in return for plugging Ms. Satter…unless she offers to come to my house every night to give me a break at the dinner table. I would have no problem with that.)
The Satter model can be simplified into this:
1. What food is offered to the child.
2. When it is offered to the child.
3. Where the food will be consumed. (She recommends meals and all snacks at table with no distractions.)
1. Which of the “offered” foods is eaten.
2. How much of it is eaten – unlimited portions (I know… calm down, I’ll get to this later!)
How many of you gasped or screamed when you read the child decides how much of something is consumed? I did! It still makes me squeeze up my face when I write it. Especially, at Halloween time or after the most recent Valentine’s Day party at school. Here is her reasoning. If you provide nutritious foods (meaning the same food prepared for the entire family, not different meals for each kid), the kids will decide which of the foods sounds good to them and will listen to their hunger cues to know when to stop eating.
She suggests that no labeling of foods “good” and “bad” is key to growing a healthy eater. They should know that healthy foods are consumed more often, but treats are not taboo, just a special treat.
Here is the screamer…at Halloween she suggests you let the children eat as much as they want that first night. Don’t comment on it, don’t judge, just trust your child to figure it all out. The next day they can have at it again, but Day 2 the candy disappears. I usually have my husband take it to work or you can freeze it for later. We tried this candy binge-method this year and were surprised our kids didn’t go too crazy each time and didn’t notice the disappearance of it on Day 2. I think they got tired of their blood sugar spiking and dropping and wanting to “sleep it off.”
Satter also suggests you are the best role model in whether or not your kids will eat certain things. If they watch you enjoying vegetables, most kids will eventually mimic you. Offering a variety of foods every day is beneficial nutritionally and aesthetically. Secrets to Feeding a Healthy Family is one of her books that I highly recommend. Trying to making meal time a nice time to share and not have a battle of wills is the goal and Ms. Satter will show you how to implement this.
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