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- Does Parenting Style Play a Part in My Child’s Health?
How you approach your child’s dissatisfaction has a large impact on their overall health. When they get upset with the healthy variety of food you serve, how do you respond? Do you give them what they want or do you hold the boundary and continue to offer a variety of food? This is important and can have an impact in their overall health. You've probably heard of dozens of different parenting styles. Frankly, modern parenting requires a blend. Typically, starting with an Authoritative Parenting style (show chart) leads to high self image for kids, a healthy level of being assertive, an ability to regulate well and have self control, and more confidence. Then we adapt that style to fit our modern lifestyles.
- I have to prioritize my time and energy, so how do I prioritize the key components you just outlined?
Focus on sleep. After you prioritize sleep, everything will slowly come together. Sleep is the foundation of everything. If we sleep, we are more motivated to exercise. If we sleep, we are likely to make better choices with food. If we sleep, we are likely to better be able to handle our emotions. Focus on your own individual sleep needs and then make small goals every day.
- When thinking about food, what am I responsible for (vs. my child)?
Our responsibility is to provide food at a certain time. We decide when and what they eat and they decide if and how much. We should not control the amount, force them, or bribe them.
- Is it better to be more or less assertive? / Am I in charge or should I let them decide?
This depends on where you are currently. A middle-ground is important. We can’t be fully strict. Our philosophy is an 80/20 rule—80% of the time we set rules and 20% of the time we make exceptions. 80% of the time, you should be in charge of the decision making, but remember that this can include feedback from your child. You can give them two options for a snack, lunch, or dinner. You can allow them control in healthy ways where you are ultimately making the decision
- I feel a bit lost and confused about why my child isn't eating. What should I be looking for?
Emotional: Parental pressure, they gagged while eating and are scared, they feel nervous around eating. Physical reasons: They are full already or because of snacking, they are going through growth spurts (or not), not feeling well, dislike a specific flavor or texture profile with foods you are serving (e.g. slimy)
- How do I handle food refusal?
Keep a schedule. Continue to offer food and snacks per the schedule. Always offer safe foods they love if they are going through a very picky phase. Don’t force them to eat.
- What’s truly realistic vs. what I from that “perfect mom” friend?
Realistic is (1) living by a basic or predictable household schedule, (2) balanced foods (storebought and homemade), (3) Don’t worry about organic or trendy ingredients (4) Vary the colors and types of food you eat and (5) Focusing on a good week (vs. every day or meal) Perfect/Fake/Unnecessarily stressful is (1) 100% / all the time (anything) (2) Always clean label eating (3) Mess-free household and (4) All smiles / All the time.
- How much prepackaged food is ok?
The thought of sugar, salt and preservatives in those teeny tiny bodies is so stressful, but real life means I can't always cook. You don't have to homecook everything that your child eats! There are many safe and wholesome prepackaged options available. Just keep an eye out for products that deliver three things (1) recognizable in nature (2) no added sugars, even "natural" sweeteners like agave and (3) sodium. Then, once you find 4-5 products that fit your needs, stick to them! There is no need to continue looking or considering more options. You have enough to do everyday.
Tips & Tricks
Start within to nurture healthy eaters:
Kids mirror your attitude and behavior, so spend some time today to examine your own attitudes toward food and habits. Try to eat a wide range of colorful foods and be open-minded about tastes/textures. You might surprise yourself (and your kids).
Nurture eaters, not grazers:
Create a schedule for your meals and two snacks. Keep the kitchen closed at other times. This predictability provides reassurance to kids, ensures they aren't eating because of hunger cues (vs. boredom or stress) and removes a lot of negotiation from your day.
Make meal time is its own activity:
Eat as a family or, at the very least, with other people sans electronic devices. This gives you the opportunity to see what your child enjoys/avoids, reassures you that they're eating broadly and most importantly, they learn what is safe/enjoyable by watching what you eat (and how you talk about it).
Focus on the week, not the meal or day:
Look at the week (on the whole) and check to see that there is a F&V most meals, along with protein and some fat. Your child doesn't need to eat perfectly every meal.
Dump the "Clean Plate" or "Must Eat" clubs:
Demand and pressure results in exactly what you don't want - negative associates with food and the dinner table. Focus on bringing a variety of food to the table, talk about it in a positive way (e.g., it's superpowers, fun crunch, etc.), provide empathy instead of pressure and leave the rest of the responsibility with your child.
Trust the process and let the rest go:
When kids feel your pressure or see your stress, they raise their defenses and need for control. So just stick to these 5 simple tips and let the rest go. When your kids see you become more predictable and relaxed about food, everyone will feel and act better.