Working with children and nutrition for the last seven years has brought the realization that it is the family who has a huge impact on the way children prefer different foods and relate to food as a whole. In particular as I work with younger children I see that I as an adult- have a larger impact for change. I am aware that I can help parents and caregivers present healthy foods, have parents become positive role models to the children by eating well themselves and encourage parents to practice routine eating behaviors.
With young children parents and caregivers have a huge impact on a child’s eating habits and with that becomes a big responsibility. As Ellyn Satter states it is the parents/caregivers who shoulder the what, when and where of eating. This is huge. To put it simply- parents are in charge of
what is for dinner such as mashed potatoes, chicken and broccoli, with yogurt and fruit for desert
when is dinner -say 6 pm and
where is –at the kitchen table.
Instead of such a formal venue, parents can also decide to have take-out (what), have it pic-nic style at sports practice (where) at 4pm (when) ! There is room for flexibility but the responsibility (What, when and where) is still there for all meals of the day including snacks.
We know children eat well when the foods are presented in developmentally appealing ways. There is a study which shows that “dinosaur patties” may be more eagerly accepted than a lean hamburger. Don’t’ “magic coins” sound more delectable than cooked carrots?
Until the power of peers and media start to take over at around ages 6 years or so- I challenge all parents and caregivers to “work it”. Shoulder the responsibility of what,when and where and give yourself a deserving pat on the back. If your child decides not to eat this meal…move onto the next meal (I forgot to mention you should have at least one food the child likes to eat at each meal.)!
BOOK TIP! (Ages 4 -8 years)
Charlie and Lola’s I will Never , Not Ever Eat A Tomato by Lauren Childs