Many parents take interest in feeding their kids well and strive to raise healthy eaters. There are often bumps along the road as we sort through scores of nutrition advice and information. We’ve heard all sorts of questions from parents, so in our new series, we’ll dive deeper into five key elements that pave the way for successful feeding. This series is adapted from talks Samantha conducts as a registered dietitian.
Part III – Focus on the “How” of Feeding
Many parents rank nutrition as a top priority for themselves and their families. When it comes to feeding our kids there is certainly no shortage of advice, from when and what to introduce to our infants to solving problems with selective eaters, to school rules about junk food. Most of the focus on nutrition for kids is about what and how much to feed them. In our quest to raise healthy eaters, dare I suggest we shift the focus from the “what” to the “how?” In no way does this mean that our food choices are not important, because they certainly play a role in the behaviors and habits of long term eating. However, how we feed is a critical element in shaping behaviors as well.
The how of feeding is the process, not the end result. The process is about structure of meals, atmosphere, conversation, and the overall philosophy of feeding that fits for your family. In raising great eaters, a critical part in how we achieve this goal lies in forming structure with meals and snacks. Kids thrive on a predictable routine and setting a regular schedule for eating helps build lifelong habits. The structure of meals and snacks allows kids to trust their instinctive self-regulation ability.
While in some ways it is more work for parents, setting structure ultimately allows for freedom because meals and snacks are anticipated and meal prep and planning can be streamlined. Once the structure is set, parents can put their nutrition knowledge into practice when choosing meals and snacks.
The atmosphere and conversation at mealtimes can pave the way for a long-time healthy relationship with food. Pleasant meals with positive conversation are much more fruitful than battles over how many bites to take and who is eating what and how much. We’ll talk more about this in Part IV, so stay tuned!
Questions to consider:
- How am I doing with providing meal structure for myself and my family?
- What are ways in which I could improve the atmosphere at mealtime?
- Are there regular mealtime battles that need to be addressed?
- Am I enjoying mealtime with my family? If so, what is contributing to this, and if not, what could enhance the experience?