How you "food parent" is your superpower!

How you "food parent" is your superpower!

Have you ever thought about how you "food parent?". In other words, what is your approach to mealtimes with your fussy eater?

It is easy to fall into default mode or "autopilot" and just react to your child's behaviour at mealtimes. This usually looks like "try it, I know you'll like it" or "just two more bites and you can have dessert" or "you're not leaving the table until you have your veggies". Does this sound familiar? 

If mealtimes are a battle of wills in your house, this is how you can change it around - by changing the way you "food parent". 

Most people have heard of the "division of responsibility" approach to feeding children. I truly believe that changing from autopilot mode and making the division of responsibility approach your default food parenting style will change mealtimes around and yes, become your superpower to conquering fussy eating. 

But first, let me tell you a little bit about how I came around to this feeding approach and how it has saved my sanity.

As a paediatric dietitian I thought I would have it easy when it came to mealtimes. My kids would be great eaters and love their veggies! How wrong I was, my girls had other plans and I quickly realised that if I didn't get some back up, I would lose this battle and my marbles too...

This was 4 years ago and since changing my food parenting style and arming myself with some strategies, I feel more CALM and CONFIDENT in my approach and my two fussy eaters have followed suit. 

Today I want to share these strategies with you, because I truly believe that every parent of a fussy eater needs this superpower!

But first let's have a look at what the division of responsibility is: 

It is essentially knowing what your role is and what your child's role is when it comes to mealtimes. This approach was developed by Ellyn Satter and is unanimously recommended by feeding therapists.

Not only does it help to relieve the stress at mealtimes, it also helps to develop healthy eating habits and can prevent obesity later in life.

Back to mealtimes...the key is to understand what your role is in the feeding relationship and stick with the plan.  THINK CALM... 

Let's look at what your role is: 

  • The when - set structure and limits to mealtimes.
  • The what - you decide what is offered at mealtimes. 

What is your child's role:

  • Decide what and how much they want to eat. 

Here is a breakdown of what that looks like:

  • Your role: What is served. Ensure there are at least two foods that you know your child will eat. This will help to keep mealtimes calm. Continue to serve foods that your child is learning to like, consider your child's food preferences but do not cook a separate meal for your child.
  • Your child: Decides what to eat. Give control - Let your child serve themselves where it is practical  - use tongs and place a dish in the middle of the table so your child can help themselves. This teaches your child to follow their hunger cues and eat to appetite.
  • Your role: The when - have set mealtimes, children thrive on routine!
  • Your role: The when - Limit “grazing” – a child who is constantly snacking will not eat well at mealtimes. 
  • Your child: Allow your child to decide when he has had enough. Don't prompt or pressure, you can nudge gently by saying - when you've finished you can take your plate to the kitchen. 
  • Your role: The mealtime environment. Model CALM, keep a poker face. Change the emotional climate at the mealtime and you will be amazed at what a difference it makes to your child’s willingness to try new foods and engage at mealtimes!

I truly hope that it will help you along this journey of feeding your child well and creating happy mealtimes.

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