Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family feeding in Child of Mine

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids in the Kitchen
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how kids get involved in their own feeding. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I've been admiring the writing of dietitian and feeding expert Ellyn Satter online for some time now. She's pioneered concepts like eating competence (for adults and children):

[Eating competence] encourages you to feel positive about your eating, to be reliable about feeding yourself, to eat food you enjoy, to eat enough to feel satisfied, and to let your body weigh what it will in accordance with your lifestyle and genetic endowment.

and the division of responsibility in feeding (for parents):

  • The parent is responsible for what, when, where
  • The child is responsible for how much and whether

I was intrigued by this dietitian's common-sensical and non-shaming approach toward food — both eating and feeding.

Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense by Ellyn SatterSo I finally picked up the book Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense
from the library (and it is now — ahem — a week overdue) and started reading Satter's ideas in more depth. I thought this was a great start for delving into family feeding in particular.1

I really resonated with the basic principles of family feeding in Child of Mine, and yet I struggled, too, with how to implement them in a way that suits our family. I thought I'd use this post to think aloud, giving both Satter's guidance (linking to her site's resources for further and more immediate information as applicable, and quoting from her online writings and the book) and my own heck-yeahs and hesitations.2

Schedule meals and snacks.

Satter recommends family meals as the way to eat competently and fulfill our own responsibilities in feeding our children. Instead of grazing or, alternatively, going hungry, she also recommends making sit-down snack times very intentional and like mini-meals. Regular, shared meals are how we (children and adults) learn to like new foods, and how we (adults and children) regulate our eating. And the benefits go beyond nutritional health:

Adults who have regular meals eat better, are healthier, and are slimmer. Children and teens who have family meals, eat better, feel better about themselves, get along better with other people, and do better in school. They are less likely to gain too much weight, abuse drugs, smoke, and have sex. In fact, family meals have more to do with raising healthy, happy children than family income, whether the child has one or two parents living in the home, after-school activities, tutors, or church.

So, ok, great. Family meals. First objection? We are notoriously awful at scheduling anything, even mealtimes! I have no idea how often we even eat in a day. Some days we might eat two meals, some days four. Some days we graze, and some days we do a tradeoff of feast and famine. I don't mind the idea of family meals — I just wonder at our ability to implement them and stick with it. And snacks, too! Honestly.

Eat as a family.

Everyone should eat at the same time so that children learn from adults how to eat competently. From the book:

Children are born with food acceptance capability, but they need help from adults if they are to act on and retain that capability. Children watch their parents eat certain foods and assume, even if they don't eat them, that "someday I will eat that." Their assumption and their desire to grow up can be squashed by adults' behaving at either, or both, of the two extremes: by being too demanding or too protective. Children need adults to be supportive and companionable, to show them what it means to grow up with respect to food, and to give them opportunities to experiment and master. They don't need to be motivated—being motivated comes with the territory of being a child. [p. 477]

Well. Nearly always, Sam and I eat at the same time if we're together. The hard part will be convincing Mikko to come along. He's become a grazer, for sure.

Eat at a table.

So you mean most people don't just set their kids loose
with pancakes on the couch? Tell me more.
When you eat at a table, the focus becomes the pleasant (let's hope) family interaction rather than whatever you'd be paying attention to elsewhere. It's a time to stop other tasks, eat and serve food with intention and enjoyment, and model and rehearse table manners in a nonthreatening way.

In her list of potential objections to family meals, nowhere does Satter suggest, "My table's always covered in crap." How to avoid the magnetism of this large horizontal surface for all our many piles of detritus? I seriously don't know how to keep it, and the chairs, and the surrounding floor space (so the chairs scoot back) free of clutter for multiple meals and snacks a day. It's almost like it's supposed to be clean all the time! And that's a post and a challenge for another day year.

Another obstacle, and this might sound spurious but is
not, is that Mikko has a serious aversion to being "uncomfy." I don't know if it's a sensory thing, an OCD thing, a poop thing (sometimes it's a poop thing — I won't go into it all here, and you can thank me later), or what, but he strongly dislikes not being comfortable. Is there a way to pull a sofa up to a table?

So you can see what I'm up against.
This is our table currently.
Still another qualm (didn't know I'd have so many related to
tables, did you?) is that Sam and I quite enjoy our eating-during-entertainment veg-outs. I know Satter says an occasional pizza and DVD night isn't a bad thing, but I already feel a little frantic at losing all my mealtime destressing. Here's the thing — if I'm not eating, I tell myself I have to keep working or parenting or cleaning or whatever it is I'm doing. Meals and snacks tend to be the only time in the day (apart from being on the can) when I fully allow myself to unwind and do something pointless, whether it's watch a TV show or read a book or play a computer game. Otherwise, I feel like I have to be doing something productive. (Do I always? Oh, no. But then there's the guilt.) So if I don't ever, ever get my veg-out time … well. I need it, so table eating will somehow have to be in addition to.

One of Sam's qualms with regards to table eating is something I actually am quite excited about: the idea of getting Mikko and Alrik to help us out with setting it and preparing to eat. I like the idea of going back to my childhood of, "All right, kids, come on and help get supper on the table!"


Present food in serving dishes.

Serving dishes encourage eating competence by allowing each family member to take as much of a food as seems sufficient. Children and adults are more likely to regulate their food intake if they can decide how much goes on their plates in the first place.

It also allows children (or, more to the point, picky eaters, which could be adults instead or as well) the chance to become comfortable with new foods gradually.

I liked this story of Adrian, a preschooler, who was a very picky eater, and whose parents had formerly tried to force him to eat and try new foods. His growth was fine, but his diet was limited and he ate mostly by grazing and begging for his few favorite foods all through the day. (Does this sound familiar to any other parents of preschoolers?)

[T]he main task with a finicky eater was not to get him to accept more food but to keep his eating from being an issue. … The parents established the structure of meals and snacks, put on one or two of the foods that he loved the best at each feeding time, and let him eat those foods or anything else on the table until he got full. They didn't ask him what he wanted to eat, they just put it on the table. Then they said to him, "You don't have to eat if you don't want to, but you do need to come and keep us company for a couple of minutes while we eat." …

At first, it was a big accomplishment for Adrian to stay at the table without making a fuss. Gradually he learned to behave at the table, and after a week or two, he started to sneak up on new food. He didn't want any spaghetti, but he did ask his parents to leave the serving dish near his plate. Then he wanted a little spaghetti on his plate, and his mother was wise enough to reassure him and she helped him serve it saying, "You don't have to eat it if you don't want to." By the fourth week, he occasionally tasted a mouthful of food, then took it out again. His parents reassured him, "That's all right. You don't have to swallow it if you don't want to." Adrian made rapid progress because his parents really meant what they told him: "It's up to you to choose what you eat." [p. 407]

This one really appeals to me, for both of those reasons: portion control, and curbing pickiness. Sam is our family cook, and he serves up the plates in the kitchen. I often end up eating more than I would choose to, because despite all my logical resistance to the idea, I am a member of the Clean Plate Club. Sam, being the generous soul that he is, generally serves each of us half of whatever he's made. But I am smaller than Sam (or was before this last pregnancy … let's not go there). I don't necessarily (or likely) need to eat the same amount. It would be helpful for my eating competence to have choices in front of me and be able to choose the quantities.

The other feature of serving dishes, that it might help a picky eater, would be a huge benefit to both Mikko and me. As I said, Adrian's progress really spoke to me.

Here are my problems with serving dishes: More dishes to wash. Oh, dear. For normal people (hrm), this might not be a problem. For us and our messiness (see my fear of eating at tables), giving us extra plates and bowls to clean at multiple meals and snacks throughout the day is asking for trouble.


Choose what to serve.

But, oh, please, not mashed bananas!
Satter suggests offering four or five foods at every meal:
Meat or other protein; a couple of starchy foods, such as rice, potatoes, bread or tortillas; fruit or vegetable or both; butter, salad dressing or gravy; and milk.
She recommends planning the menu with at least one option that any particular eater likes but not trying to please everybody with each item. If a picky preschooler will eat only bread, she says to serve plenty of it — but also other dishes that aren't favorites (yet). If an eater orders a food that's not on the menu, the cook refuses to make it but keeps it in mind for a future meal.

I like this idea of broadening horizons by serving a variety of tastes and options at each meal, and I appreciate the way this walks the fine balance between not being a short-order cook but also not haranguing kids (or adults) for not eating everything that's served. The cook chooses what to set out there, but the diners choose what to eat. The cook is considerate of what the family likes but doesn't cater to any one person's restrictions.

However! At this point, Sam and I far out-eat Mikko (and Alrik, for that matter…). Throughout our marriage, Sam has gotten into the habit of cooking for two people. Two people don't need multiple dishes at every meal, so we usually have one thing per meal or snack. Four or five foods at every meal? Well, holy cow. That's a lot of food that will go to waste unless we become leftovers-eating champions. And that's a lot more time that Sam has to spend in the kitchen.

Related to this, our single thing we're eating is often something that Mikko doesn't enjoy. Sometimes we can finagle this. It's easy enough if it's pasta to serve the sauce on the side. But, say, chili? How do you separate out all the ingredients to find the one thing in it he'll eat (ground beef)? Or do we give him just the cheese we're sprinkling on top? Do we have to serve chili, plus a veggie side that no one wants, plus some bread that Sam and I would otherwise skip, just so Mikko has something else to fill up on? (With chili, including bread to dip actually sounds decent, but it doesn't always make much sense with the meal at hand.)

I also get nervous whenever children's freedoms are curtailed. It's hard for kids to cook for themselves, so their only way of eating what they like is to ask for it and hope. Coming from a background of breastfeeding on cue and now entering into the unschooling mindset, I dislike being authoritative about my child's eating cues and preferences. However, I feel pretty good about Satter's balance here, since she advocates making sure at least one or two things on the table are appealing to any individual child — and letting the child eat as much as needed of those items to become full, assuming there's still enough for the other eaters. I just want to be sure I don't approach this in my own family out of a spirit of control or shaming if Mikko asks for something that's not on the table.

Here's a quote about balance from the book:

You are being too controlling if you make your child:
  • Stay at the table to eat his vegetables
  • Clean his plate
  • Eat everything before he can have dessert
  • Get by on only three meals a day
You aren't setting strong enough limits if you
  • Give your child a snack whenever he wants one
  • Let your child behave badly at the table
  • Regularly produce special food for your child
  • Short-order cook for him
  • Let your child have juice or milk whenever he wants it [p. 379]
I have to admit, my hackles go up at some of the "not setting strong enough limits" ones. I need to think through what limits I find acceptable as a parent, and which rub me wrong as someone who believes strongly in children's rights to make their own choices.

Don't talk about food at meals.

Satter's Family-friendly Eating Tips include this general directive:

Let children and other family members pick and choose from foods that are on the table. Don't try to persuade, entice, encourage, or cheer-lead them to eat anything they don't want to eat.

This includes games or songs as well as bribery or punishment. Eat unremarkedly and speak pleasantly about your day or about something else that interests your family.

This has been challenging for me to let go of, which surprised me. I thought we were pretty low-stress about Mikko's eating, and probably we mostly are. But I'm still trying to cut down on the cajoling and suggesting: "How about a bite of cheese? Hey, Mikko, did you try these orange slices yet? How about you just lick this zucchini slice?" (Ok, that last idea has actually worked well! He's getting some tastes of things he hasn't had in a long time or ever.)

This is where I get confused, though: How long should a meal reasonably last? Do we time it based on when Sam and I are done, because we eat much faster than Mikko? Do we just accept that Mikko's not going to eat much per meal, but it's ok, because in our newfangled scheduling, there's a snack and then another meal right around the corner? I think that actually makes sense, but since we don't have the scheduling in place yet, it worries me to call the meal over when all he's had so far is two bites of rice. From the book, the expected answer:

Snacks will help you to be firm about expecting your child to eat what is on the table. It will be far easier for you to let her down having eaten little or nothing if you know a snack is coming in 2 or 3 hours. [p. 329]

End grazing, panhandling, and short-order cooking.

I've talked about these separately up there, but here are nice quotes from the book:

Planned snacks are intended to prevent and make you resistant to food panhandling. Resisting food panhandling is, in turn, essential for the success of family meals. … Five minutes [after a meal, your toddler] is back begging for a cookie. If you know she has a snack coming in a couple of hours, you will be far more ready to firmly say no than if you think she has to wait until the next meal before she can eat again. And if you say no, she will be far more likely to start taking her mealtime eating seriously. [p. 356]

and
In planning meals for your family, it is best to treat your child like you do everyone else — sometimes she gets lucky, sometimes someone else does. Don't limit your menus to the foods that you know she likes, or she won't learn to like the whole world of other foods. [p. 356]

I agree — but how to manage it!

Limit, but don't forbid, dessert..

Satter is not big on virtue at the expense of enjoying food. She recommends taking a reasonable approach to "forbidden" foods.

She suggests including fatty snack foods (such as chips or fries) with an occasional meal to take away their power as being off-limits (which can backfire later in life).

Yea for occasional treats!
Now to figure out how to make them occasional enough…
and what that even means.
She says to limit dessert to one serving (whereas kids can ask for multiple servings of any other dish, according to how much food you've prepared) and let kids decide whether and when to eat the dessert during mealtime.

Holding out dessert as a reward for eating pressures a toddler to eat twice — once to eat the meal to get the dessert and once to eat the dessert when she's already full from eating the meal. [p. 359]

To further erode the power of sweet foods, she suggests making occasional sit-down snacks of sweet things like oatmeal cookies and having them be unlimited at that time.

She also recommends making soda a "grownup-only" drink. That ship has sailed. Sigh.

I think these are marvelous ideas for how to feed kids! Now if only I could implement them on myself…

In the end, I really enjoy Satter's ideas and endorse the division of responsibility in feeding. What I come out wishing, though, is that I had a mother (right now, as an adult) to handle this all for me! It's all seeming kind of overwhelming, so we're taking a few baby steps and seeing how it works out.

I've noticed a couple positive changes already. I've been persistent about offering Mikko foods on his plate that I know he doesn't like. For instance, if we're eating a teriyaki stir-fry, he will eat only the chicken and rice. I've been putting broccoli, carrots, and zucchini on his plate. He is allowed to tell me he doesn't want them and put them back on my plate forthwith, which he usually does. But: He has now licked a carrot! I don't care if you don't think that's progress — it totally is.

We've also been meeting more with other kids, and they are positive peer pressure (and thankfully, not the other way around!). He ate cold (leftover cooked) broccoli because the girls he was with were doing it. He tried some berries and snarfed down zucchini bread for the same reason — he spit out the berries after one bite, but at least he tried them! He also ate a whole apple without asking for it to be cut up or the skin cut off, just because he could see his friend eating it whole. I love the idea of positive modeling of competent eating, and hope Sam and I also can be better models if we can move all of us to the table!3

How do you manage the division of responsibility in feeding? Do Satter's ideas resonate with you or repel? Any advice for us on moving past our many objections?




1 Satter has also written How to Get Your Kid to Eat: But Not Too Much and Your Child's Weight: Helping without Harming — but, despite Mikko's stay at the top of the percentiles in both weight and height, I am (and our pediatrician agrees) absolutely not worried about his weight (for one thing, the kid has taken his responsibility in the division of feeding seriously and barely eats!) and didn't want to choose books that focused on weight as a potential problem, even though I'm sure Satter's advice in those areas is just as sound as in her other writing. And then I picked Child of Mine over Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook mostly because my library had Child of Mine listed as a more recent publication, so I figured it was the most up to date. I'll likely check out that one next.
2 Just a word of warning to my usual readers who might take an unguarded stroll through Satterland. She's not a particularly crunchy dietitian. I believe her underlying principles of family feeding are in tune with natural parenting ideals in that they are nonjudgmental and give responsibility and trust to the child. But I didn't take everything she said as gospel but more as a stepping stone to reevaluate the areas I need to work on. I guess if I had to characterize her, I'd say she's a firm believer in responsive (read: attachment) parenting but maybe not as out-there in terms of crunchy, hippie, granola feeding styles (whatever you want to call those!). Just as a mostly uncontroversial example, her book's section on starting solids gives the standard timelines of starting with cereals and moving on to purees, etc., whereas I enjoyed baby-led solids with Mikko and look forward to the same with Alrik. But in her appendices, she references studies from as far back as 1928 that seem like — who'd a thunk it — baby-led solids. So…as with any parenting advice (including mine!), take what helps you and let go of the rest. I'm actually compiling a list of questions to ask her in a possible interview if anyone has any to add!
3 Child of Mine has much more to say than just my summary of this topic of family meals. It's about feeding strategies for all ages from babies to 5 years, and it includes tips on dealing with situations that require even more thought, such as special needs, particular diets, or health concerns. There is also plenty of guidance on what and how much food to serve and some advice on how to avoid making meal planning, shopping, and cooking burdensome, although as I now understand it, her Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook has more practical tips in that regard. I do also want to say that most of Satter's advice assumes families who are food secure, although she does give some tips on feeding a family if you have a low income. I don't mean any offense by talking about her book without referencing the financial aspects of cooking and providing structured meals and snacks for a family; it's something I think of, too, and is simply beyond the scope here.





Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Baking & letting go — Cooking with kids can be a mess. Nadia at Red White & GREEN Mom is learning to relax, be patient, and have fun with the process.
  • Family feeding in Child of Mine — Lauren at Hobo Mama reviews Ellyn Satter's suggestions for appropriate feeding and points out where her family has problems following through.
  • Children with Knives! (And other Kitchen Tools) — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy teaches her children how to safely use knives.
  • "Mommy, Can I Help?" — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how she lets her kiddos help out with cooking, despite her {sometimes} lack of patience!
  • Solids the Second Time Around — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes recounts her experiences introducing solids to her second child.
  • The Adventure of Toddler TastebudsThe Accidental Natural Mama shares a few things that helped her daughter develop an adventurous palate.
  • A Tradition of Love — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy looks forward to sharing the kitchen traditions passed on from her mom and has already found several ways to involve baby in the kitchen.
  • The Very Best Classroom — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw's Newest Thoughts reveals how her kitchen is more than a place to make food - it's a classroom!
  • Raising Little Chefs — Chef Mike guest posts on Natural Parents Network about how he went from a guy who couldn't cook to a chef who wanted to teach his boys to know how the food we love is made.
  • In the Kitchen with my kids — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine shares a delicious soup recipe that her kids love.
  • Papa, the Pancake Artist — Papa's making an incredible breakfast over at Our Mindful Life.
  • Kids won't eat salad? Try this one! — Tat at Mum in Search is sharing her children's favourite salad recipe.
  • Recipe For a Great Relationship — Cooking with kids is about feeding hearts as well as bellies, writes Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • The Ritual of Mealtimes — Syenna at Gently Parenting Twins writes about the significance of mealtimes in her family’s daily rhythm.
  • Kid, Meet Food. Food, Kid. — Alburnet at What's Next? panicks about passing on her food "issues" to her offspring.
  • Growing Up in the Kitchen — Cassie at There's a Pickle in My Life shares how her son is growing up in the kitchen.
  • Harvesting Corn and History — From Kenna at School Garden Year: The kids in the school garden harvest their corn and learn how much history grows in their food.
  • My Guiding Principles for Teaching my Child about Food — Tree at Mom Grooves uses these guiding principles to give her daughter a love of good food and an understanding of nutrition as well as to empower her to make the best choices for her body.
  • Kitchen Control — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro writes about her struggles to relinquish control in the kitchen to her children.
  • Food — Emma at Your Fonder Heart lets her seven month old teach her how to feed a baby.
  • Kitchen Fun? — Adrienne at Mommying My Way questions how much fun she can have in a non-functional kitchen, while trying to remain positive about the blessings of cooking for her family.
  • Kitchen Adventures — Erica at ChildOrganics shares fun ways to connect with your kids in the kitchen.
  • Kids in the Kitchen: Finding the Right Tools — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings shares some of her favorite child-sized kitchen gadgets and where to find them.
  • The Kitchen Classroom — Laura at Authentic Parenting knows that everything your kids want to learn is at the end of the ladle.
  • Kids in the Kitchen — Luschka from Diary of a First Child talks about the role of the kitchen in family communication and shares fun kitchen activities for the under two.
  • Our Kitchen is an Unschooling Classroom. — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle explores the many ways her kitchen has become a rich environment for learning.
  • Montessori-Inspired Food Preparation for Preschoolers — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares lots of resources for using Montessori food preparation activities for young children in the kitchen.
  • My Little Healthy Eater — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares her research on what is the best first food for babies, and includes a healthy and yummy breakfast recipe.
  • Two Boys and Papa in the Kitchen: Recipe for Disaster?MudpieMama shares all about her fears, joys and discoveries when the boys and handsome hubby took over the kitchen.
  • Food choices, Food treats — Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea shares her family's relationship with food.
  • learning to eat — Catherine at learner mummy reflects on little M's first adventures with food.

48 comments:

Dreamingaloudnet said...

Love you sharing this book - and even more love your comments on it!! We are struggling with a "picky eater" here at the Pink House. I am currently writing a feature for JUNO on the subject and am reviewing a few new releases on the topic. So far my pick of the pops is the legendary Elizabeth Pantley's No Cry Picky Eater Solution. its full of calm, loving support, lots and lots of fascinating research (both hers with families and that of research scientists around the globe.)

Please do stop by Dreaming Aloud and see why I feel that passing on cooking skills is the most important legacy I can leave my kids
http://dreamingaloudnet.blogspot.com/2011/11/taste-memory.html

click clack gorilla said...

Awesome post. Awesome blog. Was glad to have stumbled upon it.

I'm expecting my first kidlet in February and have been wondering how the whole eating thing will play out. I love doing the "we all sit down to a family meal" every night thing. But in reality it just doesn't happen a lot. My partner LOVES eating in bed in front of the tv, so that's become a part of our eating habits a lot. Not to mention just the general lack of planning we manage with that sort of thing, and general chaos that we enjoy harboring in our lives. But I had to laugh thinking that, well, I could really use some more schedule in my life when it comes to eating since I tend to feel nauseaus when I get hungry. So that'll help inspire me to get on making things more regular with the kid.

I really like all the ideas that basically support a kid's ability to make his or her own choices at the table and help them open up to trying other things. Had the same response to the whole "serve everything in a serving dish" thought though. We don't have running water in our kitchen and I'll be damned if I triple the amount of dishes I have to do with serving dishes.

I am always slightly baffled by the dessert conversation. I don't think I have ever once "served dessert" in my life. I don't make desserts and they aren't a part of meals for me/us, more like a special treat by themselves, so hopefully that habit will help to eliminate pressure from the kidlet about that--they'll just be a treat for a different context.

I think I'd probably feel pretty uncomfortable telling a kid he or she can't eat when she's hungry though, even when it's not at a meal, particularly thinking of how shitty I feel when I'm hungry and how angry and aggressive it makes me when people don't take that seriously or place themselves in the way of me getting to food faster. Have thought that maybe only having certain foods always available might help. Like, you're always welcome to eat any of the veggies sliced veggies in the fridge or something along those lines, but not to have other snacks in between the scheduled times. Going to be an interesting couple of decades of experiments I suppose... :)

Kat said...

I am, and my parenting approach, is a hodge-podge of things I think are important. I have never been a fan of ascribing to one and only way of doing things...because what if something better, that works better for me and my family comes along? So that's what we do. We do what works for us, and stick to our over-arching family goals and philosophy. When it comes to food, we have always had our main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) at the table. Snacks are also somewhat scheduled (as in usually at the same time every day, but only if they ask for one) and the kiddos have a say in how much they eat. We don't stress about them not finishing, the only thing we tell them, is "eat until your tummy feels happy and full".

As for advice...well, if there is something from Satter's ideas that you really want to change in your family, then you will...you will find a way to implement the change and make it work. As for the other things that maybe don't resonate with you so much, don't worry. Take what works and leave the rest :-)

Love the pics! I bet those cheeks are just awesome to smooch!

melissa said...

This definitely sounds like a book I'd like to read! For now, I really appreciate hearing about what stuck out to you. We have just recently, in the past couple of weeks, switched to serving meals "family style" instead of eating plates I prepare in the kitchen. There are definitely more dishes, but I have seen some really positive changes in Annabelle's eating, so I think it has been worth it so far. Of course I can't seem to get away from trying to get Annabelle to eat what I think she should. "Oh, wow! Look at this yummy broccoli!" Sigh.

I'm a firm believer in allowing children to have snacks when they want them, and never turn down a request for food from Annabelle. I really feel like this is important to appetite regulation, so I definitely disagree with Satter on that point. Some days we're more active than on others, some days Annabelle needs more calories because she's growing. I want her to tell me when she's hungry - not the clock. If she eats less at our designated mealtime, so be it.

Growing up, we seldom ate family meals, but the ones I do remember were tacos and chili. For both, we had a lot of extras (cheese, sour cream, etc), that were packaged. We put all of these out and took the lids off, and all added them ourselves, but didn't use serving dishes. I wonder if that sort of thing would help you add components and options to the meal without waste or extra dishes? Crackers instead of bread that could go back in the box if not eaten?

Overall, I do think there are some valuable insights here - thank you for sharing!

Olivia said...

When our daughter started eating more than nursing I instituted eating at the kitchen table. It was both for controlling the mess and allowing us to focus more on what she ate or to help her eat when she needed it. Let me tell you, keeping that kitchen table clean is hard. Many nights we are shoving papers aside to make room for our plates. And we also like to veg out in front of the tv and eat dinner. Seems like it's our only chance to do so. So, we do that if it's a meal I know my daughter will eat, like pizza, and is not too messy. Then there are the nights when she is very hungry coming home from daycare and eats a big snack that ends up being her meal. Husband and I take that opportunity to eat on the couch.

I don't serve 5 different things at every meal, but I will let her eat just the cheese and tortilla if we are having burritos, or if there is nothing that she likes, she is allowed to choose yogurt or pb&j sandwich.

As for using serving dishes, I'm with you on that. Plus our kitchen table is too small to put extra dishes. We serve ourselves from the pot or pan, and dish up daughters. Maybe when she's older and we move to the dining table (she sits at her little table now) we can go to just putting the pots on the table for everyone to serve themselves.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

I'd be interested in hearing from someone who has read more about self-regulating and the importance of allowing littles to graze - at first glance, it seems like this author would recommend against that (i.e., with the scheduled meals/snacks, etc.).
As far as keeping tables clean - that's a challenge here too, it seems like the dining room table becomes the catch-all for everything throughout the day. I am often cleaning it off (or scooting things over) before meals, and it's annoying. I do try to get Kieran to take his things to put away, and I dump Tom's things in a pile for him so it's not all my responsibility.

Adrienne said...

Just a thought about the whole messy table thing- we eat at the table every meal (except pizza, which we have as a family tradition to eat on the living room floor straight out of the box) and yet we don't always keep the table (and benches) clutter-free. However, it does help us reconsider what we're (I'm) going to pile on the table, knowing it's going to have to be moved (or even, gasp, be put away) a few hours later. Once you clean it, there's only a few hours inbetween meals to let it get untidy, so that's a plus- not a lot can get piled in a few hours. Anyway, not trying to say I've got this all figured out, but just a word of encouragement stating that once you clean off the clutter, and use the table as a place to eat, it's much easier to keep it clean! :) Of course, I hate doing dishes and we don't have a dishwasher...but the same concept applies as the table- if you're only washing two dishes (one for each adult) and maybe a kiddie plate or bowl per meal, that's really not too bad. Soak the pans and other dishes you used for cooking and get to them later, like say, during naptime. If you keep on top of it, it won't pile up, I promise! And it will only take a few minutes! Maybe Mikko would even like to help "wash" or dry the dishes while you're wearing Alrik. I don't know, just some ideas. :)

I loved this post and your thoughts on the book. It presented to me some great logic that I look forward to implementing in my home once Burkley's old enough to discern what he's eating. So far with babyled solids, he eats every.single.thing...I have a feeling once the toddler years approach some of that might wane.

Nadia said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post. We did BLW with the 2nd child, but not with our first, and we have a lot of struggles with the 1st born. And BLW promotes a similar point of view to this vis-as-vis food.

I must admit that I fall within the more controlling category... except that we don’t serve desert, or very rarely do. I figure there’s no need to forbid something if it doesn’t exist. So, we don’t keep desert (or chips, soda, etc...) in the house.
The hard part for me will be to have 4 or 5 foods at every meal. I barely manage to have one decent dish made. How the heck does anybody manage that with kids?

I made a conscious decision to remove the clutter at our table. It’s hard, but we only eat meals there and only as a family. So, it must be clean. I also add a tablecloth because it adds to the feeling of making mealtime special. If the kids aren’t hungry, then they don’t eat but they must stay in the kitchen and keep us company.

I may just have to refer to you & post about this myself, otherwise I fear my comment will be much too long ;)

henrietta said...

Fascinating thorough review of what sounds like a really interesting book. From quite chaotic beginnings with my first child, over the course of three more I have definitely developed more rhythm in our family's eating, and it really helps. Regular mealtimes at the table (and until last week we lived in a tiny mobile home so keeping it clear was a three times a day chore)regular snacks provide a relaxed framework to the day and helps keep me sane! Of course we do snuggle down by the fire for simple dishes sometimes or sit on the floor for a treat picnic. I've never read much about kids and food before but this book looks really interesting. Thanks for a great post!

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Dreamingaloudnet: Thanks, Lucy, and thanks for sharing your post as well! I love Elizabeth Pantley, so I'm definitely going to have to check out her latest.

Inder-ific said...

Oh, wow, I need to read this book. I am embarrassed to admit that food has become a major struggle with Joe lately. We have even (shudder shudder shudder) resorted to cramming food into his mouth and saying "chew! chew! swallow!" OMG, I swore I would not become one of those parents!! But he is weaning so he hardly drinks any breastmilk anymore, and he doesn't eat anything except white flour and cow's milk and sweet things. My 18 month old neice eats more in one sitting than he does all day! It's hard not to get anxious at some point. And then you do stuff you know is wrong, but you're too anxious to care at that moment. *Hangs head in shame.*

Mrs. Stone said...

Whoa great article! Thanks for this info...it all made total sense to me. One thing I struggle with is the dessert thing. I have always absolutely forbid it because I hate the idea of loading up on sugar after a really good meal. I make up for it though by offering things like pumpkin bread as a day snack. But yeah, I'm going to re-evaluate everything now. I also have a hard time offering more than one thing at mealtime. I'm like a one-food-meall/snack kinda gal which TOTALLY needs to end.

P.S. I seriously love the "eat at the table" followed by Mikko chomping pancakes on the couch LOL!!! That made me laugh out loud.

xo, mrs. stone

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@click clack gorilla: Congrats on your baby-to-be! I'm glad to hear of another family who likes the concepts but isn't quite there with the follow-through yet. :) I'll be glad to hear how it goes for you. If I didn't have running water, I would definitely cut even further down on dishes!

The dessert thing is weird to me, too, because I never grew up with it as a concept. We had snacks, some of which were sweet and after dinner, but it was never connected to dinner. I might skip that one… ;)

And, yes, I totally agree on not wanting a kid to get hungry. Besides just the basic compassion aspect, it magnifies all other issues! Hungry child = cranky/sad/mad child. I like your idea of having veggies or something available as a palliative.

Ok, here's what I was thinking last night to explain more where I'm at least going with this system, should I choose to implement it. For me, I don't want it to be about control but only about structure.

I want to make mealtimes the norm, but then there could be things that step outside the norm, and that's ok. So, I just make it matter of fact that we eat three meals a day at the table, and X number of snacks at these certain times. If Mikko asks for something apart from those, of course he can have it, just as I could if I wanted something. But we'll understand it's not the norm. Just as pizza while watching a DVD one night a week wouldn't make it not the norm to eat at the table the other nights, and wouldn't make eating at the table the other nights not as good. Does that make sense as a philosophy? That's where I'd like to head.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Kat: Oh, good, I'm a hodge-podger myself. And of course, I get excited the first time I think about something (as with Satter here), but then I have to mold it to fit our own family. I totally agree that if I do any implementing, it will be because it resonated strongly enough (and then I'll stop just talking about it, lol).

We often ask Mikko "What does your tummy say?" if we want to know if he's done eating. So far, he's been very intuitive about it and stops and tells us he's full when he's done.

I love those cheeks! They're mine from childhood, and I'm glad to have passed them on to someone adorable. :)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@melissa: That's a good idea to use the packaging as serving dishes. Also, taco bar — yum! :)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Olivia: Using pots & pans as serving dishes — that's a good idea, too! Since I have to wash those, anyway. As long as we can keep the heat away from the little fingers.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Dionna @ Code Name: Mama: I've lately been feeling that, for myself, it's better to limit grazing. I know this goes against what has more recently been held as ideal, but I find that it doesn't allow me the ebb and flow of knowing when I'm truly hungry and when I'm just bored. I wonder if the same can happen for kids?

I think that if you know that you have a healthy relationship to food and you graze, then there's not a problem. Likely Kieran will grow up similar to you! Since Sam & I have a history of disordered eating, we need all the help we can get. :)

If you're interested in further reading a la Satter, here are her online articles that touch on grazing and feeding kids:
Case study of undereater
The Child Who Eats Too Little
The Underweight Child
The Child Who Eats Too Much

In the book, it's interesting that she seems more concerned with children undereating rather than overeating when grazing, presumably because snacks eaten by grazers tend to be less nutritionally dense. (Say, Cheerios vs. a lunch of a sandwich with meat, cheese, grains and veggies. And maybe your snacks are a lot better than filling up on Cheerios, which is why you wouldn't see it as a problem.)

From an appendix on Children and Food Regulation: The Research:
Letting children graze for food can inadvertently underfeed them as they fill up on small amounts and don't work up a good appetite for meals. Denver Children's Hospital psychologist Kay Toomey found in her clinical work with poorly eating toddlers that structured feedings allowed toddlers to voluntarily eat 50 percent more than when they were allowed to graze for food. With grazing, the expectation is that children can be mobile and vocal enough to get food for themselves and see to it that they get fed. In an extreme cultural example of toddler grazing, Texas A&M anthropologist Katherine Dettwyler [and my hero, swoon] observed New Guinea toddlers roaming the village in groups and eating only if they happened to be present in a home when food was available. Adults did not, in any systematic way, see to it that toddlers got fed. Growth rates of children in New Guinea were very slow.



Although children are good regulators, they way they are fed can undermine their ability to regulate and make them too fat. In my own clinical experience, children can
overeat as well as undereat when they are allowed to graze for food and beverages. However, most of the research focuses on the negative consequences of restricting children's food intake. [p. 479-480]

The Toomey article is "Caloric intake of toddlers fed structured meals and snacks versus on demand" from Verbal Communication, 1994.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Adrienne: You promise they won't pile up? I'll hold you to it. ;) Mikko actually does like to help with dishes … which is sometimes help and sometimes … um …

And, I know, Mikko was so good at eating everything as a BLW toddler that I got so certain he would continue on! Sigh. Maybe you'll get lucky with Burkley, though! I hope!

Joy said...

We are actually pretty strict about eating together as a family every night--and we usually eat breakfast together as well. I find that it becomes a good way for us to model certain behaviours to our little guy (18 months) such as: saying/signing "please"; sharing and trying "tastes/sniffs" of new foods. I also buy the studies that show that kids who eat with their parents tend to do better socially/physically/academically than kids who don't...but we'll see how it goes once academic/sport/extracurricular activities start happening.

We also offer three meals and two snacks a day (plus nursing on demand)--and snacks in our house could be things like frozen peas. I think the nursing on demand plus those offerings means that little guy gets his needs met and I feel pretty good about setting some limits.

That said, if he totally refuses a meal (such as last night when he turned down quinoa (which he loves) because I had put a dreaded orange vegetable in it (squash, and really, what kind of kid WON'T eat squash, carrots or sweet potatoes)) I will wait about an hour and offer something I KNOW he'll eat (last night, a slice of whole wheat bread and butter and some raisins). That way, I'm hoping he's not thinking that mama is a short order cook, but I don't have to worry that he'll want to nurse in the middle of the night because he skipped supper.

No screens at dinner, but I am guilty of playing on the computer while he eats lunch...

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Nadia: I think that's perfectly reasonable to keep sweets out of the house if as a family you've decided they're just not what you eat. Certainly we all make choices like that (e.g., choosing our own culture's foods as opposed to another's), and it all falls into the "what you serve" part of the division of responsibility in feeding. I thought I'd be able to do that when I had kids, but it's so ingrained in me to enjoy junk now and again (and again…).

Sam loves your tablecloth idea! He thinks that would help us stop the piling.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@henrietta: Wow, Henrietta, it sounds like you don't need to read it! It sounds like you've got a great structure as well as balance.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Inder-ific: I totally hear you on that. You might really appreciate her writings, then, because she gives a lot of reassurance about picky eaters, undereaters, and low weight gainers. I don't know if Joe's undereating is a medical problem, but if not, this might really help you relax about it. I know it did for me! Mikko's large, which is a helpful reassurance in itself, but he seriously eats very, very little. (We've hung out with other kids — smaller, younger — who eat so much it astonishes me!) Satter's explanations of the research helped me truly understand that kids who eat fewer calories are doing so based on their own intuitive understanding of their body's activity levels and genetic predispositions, and that any forcing is only going to backfire. I know, easier said than done when it's your child's wellbeing on the line! Good luck.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Mrs. Stone: Ok, see, I agree — when I'm full is not when I want a dessert. I'd much rather have a sweet snack a few hours after dinner. (Not saying that's what you do, lol.)

That couch is ruined. ;)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Joy: That sounds very balanced — thanks for weighing in with your wisdom, Joy!

It just strikes me that I am scarfing down my breakfast while answering these comments…hmm.

Inder-ific said...

@Lauren @ Hobo Mama

Thankfully, Joe is a big boy too (obviously growing and happy) or I can't even imagine how nutso-crazy I would have gone by now. Our problem with him is that he refuses to eat anything the least bit nutritious or interesting. It's all empty calories (and milk, which he drinks about ten times the recommended amount of, but since he doesn't eat and we want him to get some nourishment ... it's a cycle).

I just reserved that book on ILL so hopefully I'll get to read it soon. It has become this major power struggle now. I can see that it's not good, but I don't know how to change it right now. GAH. Thank you for listening and not judging!

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Inder-ific: No, I totally understand. I think I've mentioned before that Mikko's on the All-White Diet: white rice, white bread, white chicken meat, and of course, sugar. Woot!

I will just offer this tantalizing glimpse of hope: In the past month, Mikko has made some changes. Not all the time, but he seems to be becoming just the slightest bit more adventurous again. I don't want to jinx it and say the picky eater phase is passing, but I really, really hope it is.

Inder-ific said...

@Lauren @ Hobo Mama

The All White Diet!! That's right! That's awesome, I will certainly be quoting you on that. Thanks for making me smile about something that's obviously been causing me a bit of angst! I needed some levity. :-)

Sheila said...

This sounds like a great book. Of course there is no WAY we are sitting down at the table to eat as often as this kid wants to eat. I tend to do one big at-the-table meal a day, and that's when he eats the most -- generally because he's trying to be like Mom and Dad. He'll try things at dinner that he won't eat at other times, too. But he turns down a lot of things.

I'm not up to making a zillion dishes, but I make casseroles and things that have many discrete ingredients, so he can pick out what he wants. Instead of filling up his plate, I give him a few bites at a time off of my plate of whatever he's interested in. Otherwise it gets flung to the dog! I got tired of wasting food, so now I pick out the mushrooms, the meat, and the noodles for him to eat. Though he surprises me sometimes by demanding the broccoli or some salad!

I must say, though, that having set snacks available at particular times has been a lifesaver. My kid isn't very good at letting me know when he's hungry -- he gets too caught up in playing. Then when he finally does realize he wants to eat, we're one step away from a meltdown and he only wants ONE thing -- usually something unavailable. If I suggest a snack before that point, it goes better and he'll generally eat what I suggest. I fell upon this trick by chance when I got pregnant and started eating a million snacks a day. He really does eat better when I initiate snacktime -- and I HAVE to eat with him. If I'm not going to be eating, I have to give him a sandwich or fruit (his favorite things) and let him run around the house with them. There is no way he's sitting still to eat all by himself.

I'm not the one to ask, because I don't have a very picky eater (though call me when he's three) but these tricks work for me. You don't have to go whole-hog or nothing -- incorporate one suggestion from the book at a time, and see how it works. What doesn't work well for your family, toss. Isn't that what NP is all about?

Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama said...

Thanks for sharing this book with us! I definitely want to check it out. I like her advice, but I also share some of the same obstacles you named.

Deb Chitwood said...

Fascinating read, Lauren! I totally agree with a lot of the ideas from the book, and a few things my family did differently. We had family meals consistently when our kids were growing up except that my husband typically couldn't eat with us. Because he worked in the evenings, it was a "family" meal with the kids and me with the exception of my husband's nights off.

I did let my kids choose their snacks, and I didn't offer 4 or 5 foods at every meal. We often had dishes with a number of vegetables in them, and my kids grew up enjoying them. The book is definitely interesting food for thought! Deb @ LivingMontessoriNow.com

Joy said...

I don't know if it's wisdom! We DO spend far too many meals pretending we don't see him putting his feet on the table and reminding him that he MAY not bang the fork on the table.

But, if you have any wisdom to impart about 18 month olds, being "gentle" and tantrums I would eat it like ice cream!!!

lilsnowflakes said...

You have provided such useful information in this post! I especially like the division of responsibility - parents are responsible for what, when and where, and children are responsible for how much and whether. Often at the LLL meetings that I lead, the topic of food comes up and moms are always worried that their kids aren't eating enough. I always try to tell them that all they are responsible for is providing healthy food for the child, and it's up to the child to eat it. I find that this takes a lot of the pressure of parents and also takes away a lot of the guilt they feel if their kids are "picky eaters".

Momma Jorje said...

At our apartment, we didn't even have a table! I love to eat family meals at the table without the television as a distraction so that we are basically forced to focus on the company.

I even took an idea from a movie and used to do "High / Low." We'd go around the table and share our high points and low points from our day. I realize this may not be as fitting for a family that spends the entire day together, but when I lived in a household of 3 working adults and 3 kids that went to school - it was a great way to reconnect.

As for serving dishes, I tend to serve up food from the kitchen as well (on those rare occasions when I actually cook!). But perhaps another solution: Bring the cooking pots to the table to double as serving dishes! I do recall my stepmother having serving dishes at the table, though. And now that I think about it, I think there is something extra pleasant about that presentation... but that could just be because I don't do it, so it becomes something special.

I agree about the strong limits... though I don't guess I do give a snack at every request (when the child is avoiding bed time, for instance... but sometimes I still give in - don't want to send a kid to bed hungry!). Behaving badly? Depends on how you define it. My daughter asks for (cow's) milk often. I can't seem to find a reason to refuse.

I try to stay with Sasha while she eats. I was all-too-often left at the table for an hour (or two!) to finish my plate once everyone else had left. I was a slow eater, sure, but there was also perhaps too much food on my plate and definitely something I didn't like. I could see where this would be a big leap, especially if you're not even used to eating at the table in the first place. But try to think of it as quality time together.

Soda... my kids love water and I try to put off introducing soda. I don't drink it, but their fathers have. With Sasha it has been easy enough. She has tried it, but doesn't like the carbonation. She has recently fallen in love with Daddy's tea, though. At least it's decaf and he doesn't drink it at home much.

One way we let Sasha choose her portions is to let her GRAZE off our plates. I don't guess this is the same sort of "grazing" but I think it counters a lot of trouble people have with getting toddlers to eat. By choosing what she wants from our plates, she also chooses her own portions and she doesn't have to stop playing or be "strapped down" to eat.

She hasn't been eating as much lately and I try really hard not to let it worry me... especially seeing as how she always has room and interest for sweets.

I'd apologize for the BOOK I've written here, but... I know you understand. ;-)

Momma Jorje said...

Oh, and I *love* positive peer pressure! We haven't had much exposure to it with Sasha yet, though.

African Babies Don't Cry said...

This books sounds great - the ideas definitely resonate with me. Im going to have to try find it!

The quote about the family meal at a table ... wow! Who knew? I already am a big believer in family meal times but this has just cemented it further.

I love how you hash things out with yourself on here... I do wish you luck with finding a rhythm :)

Shannon Hillinger said...

We schedule three meals a day, and I limit snacks in the hour or hour and half before those meals (which really makes Moira angry, especially before dinner), but I free feed for snacks. Mostly we settled on that because she is usually so hungry. Some of the snacks she gets turn into a fourth meal worth of food, especially if I'm organized enough to do a muffin tin snack for her.
We don't normally have 5 options at meal times, dinner is anything from 2 to 4. I also love one dish meals, but I've found it pretty easy to add a starchy side. Chili is always served with cheese and chips because that's how I like to eat it. Not the most healthy option, but it means she can fill up if I accidentally make it too spicy. A good way to add options is to have a cut up raw veggie, like carrots, celery, or cucumber. Even if no one wants to eat them, they can be there without too much prep work, and easily get put back into the fridge to be offered for a future meal.

Shannon Hillinger said...

Oh! One of my friends has completely padded dining room chairs, Maybe you could find a comfy sort of arm chair and have that be Mikko's chair at the table. I don't really have any suggestions about how to keep your table clear. We "solved" that one by having a giant island in the kitchen to clutter up, and an extra dining room table.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Shannon Hillinger: Cut-up raw veggies — brilliant. I seriously never would have thought of that, but that would be yummy. I think of those as party food, I guess. ;) There's no way in holy heck Mikko will eat them anytime soon, but if the point is for him to see us eating them, that should work!

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Shannon Hillinger: I probably should look for a padded chair – that might help.

Ok, just to make you all laugh, I snapped a picture of our table in all its current glory and added it to the post.
http://i233.photobucket.com/albums/ee159/lintpicker/Home/IMAG1540.jpg
Because I live to embarrass myself.

I really, really wanted to move that Diet Dr. Pepper for the picture but resisted. But not the cupcakes — because, hey! Cupcakes! And you can tell we had a birthday party recently. Notice, too, that every chair is covered as well. Just to make things better.

My need to start doing FlyLady again is another post…

Rach said...

Oh this does sound like a good book. I love the way you have personalised it. But I can't help think that there is a bit too much over-thinking going on in the book.

I think it is simple. You decide what to offer, they decide what to eat. No pressure, no cajoling. Eat together. Don't offer alternatives. At all. Even if they touch nothing. They will make up for it another time. No child that was offered food has ever starved.

Also think the 5 things at every meal is a bit too much pressure. Just try to make sure those 5 groups are offered throughout the daily meals. Much easier.

No solution to your table dilemma either. have a basket for each person under the table and sort out each person's stuff into the basket before the meal? Maybe a game for a busy toddler to boot?

Laura said...

I read this book when Selena was little. I liked it, but never followed through in the ideas...

I do remember one quote from the book was about toddlers preferring to drink their meals, and she didn't know why. Um, they should still be nursing.

Selena is picky. It drives me nuts, however I am sympathetic because I was as a young kid as well. But I've been reading and i'm coming more and more to the conclusion that bread and pasta are things to eat in very limited quantities, but that is all she will eat. It's driving me nuts with anxiety.

Good review, as always!

Tat @ Mum in search said...

It sounds like a very sensible book to read. We've intuitively embraced the division of responsibility from day one... but it got nearly impossible to stick to it when we ended up with two very small children (under 3rd percentile on the growth chart). I think our kids were meant to be small, they are active and healthy, but every checkup appointment is stressful and just before and after each appointment you can see increased urge to get them to eat more. It's good that as they get older, checkups are less frequent.

Sylvia@MaMammalia said...

Thanks so much for providing highlights from this book, along with your own "heack yeahs and hesitations". I'm with you on those! I think that one of the big things that's missing from the notion of teaching healthy eating habits is a focus on AGE APPROPRIATE eating habits. A toddler who still BFs, versus a preschooler (who may still BF), and a 12 year-old in all have different needs. Some of Satter's recs make some sense for a 12 YO, but for a kid under 5, it sounds a bit too controlling for my taste (no pun intended!). I like how you've picked and chosen some of her suggestions that will work for your family. Maybe finding a healthy balance is all that really matters!

Domestic Accident said...

Ellen's advice is right on. I read her book How to Get Your Kid to Eat... after my first child was weaned at a year, but not gaining weight. He was a preemie-just 3lbs when he was born- and I was very anxious about how and what he ate. Her book was life changing. No battles about eating and normal weight gain. Ten years later, all 3 of my kids have been raised on her principals and not a picky eater among them.

katja said...

This is such a great analysis! As a mom and a family doctor and now working exclusively helping families who struggle with feeding and weight issues (I'm a childhood feeding specialist) I think Satter's work has so much to offer. You mention baby led weaning, so I'm linking my post. http://familyfeedingdynamics.com/2011/01/baby-led-weaning-or-starting-solids-book-review-and-nutritionist-weighs-in-with-her-7-month-old-daughter/ I think it is a great option, and is so very similar to the division of responsibility. I work with lots of families trying to figure out how to make this Trust model of feeding work in their own lives. If your table is a mess, you can sit on a blanket on the floor, or you can sit around a cofee table. A family meal means that you enjoy the same foods together. Some folks think her srategies feel very rigid, but I have done them with my own toddler, and it has been liberating for me. I feed with confidence, and I have a daughter who is happy, healthy and enjoys a wide variety of foods. Please keep thinking and experimenting with this! FYI, ellyn is on FB and answers some questions, I too am on FB. She is ellyn satter associates and I am family feeding dynamics llc. We would love to see more discussion on feeding that isn't about tricking kids or sneaking or forcing. (Check out the ragu moms the word on dinner for what NOT to do...) Thanks again for your time on this and spreading the word! I see far too many families who are worried and struggling with food!

Ellyn Satter said...

What a great review! So thoughtful. Katja said everything I would have said. Wanted to add that you reminded me of the description of eating competence on http://www.ellynsatter.com/eating-competence-i-58.html, which I think is a good one. Thinking of raising children to be eating competent (rather than getting them to eat) puts feeding in a whole different perspective. Ellyn Satter

articles said...

What a great article! I just found it this morning, and it inspired me to go ahead and write about how playing restaurant improves our family meals. I agree with a lot of your misgivings about the feasibility of some of the ideas from the book for your own life...but I find that sometimes when I switch off the "should" thoughts and just TRY something, I find that it works for us better than I thought it would--maybe with some adjustments.

I also grew up in a family that did not eat dessert at the end of a meal. However, we always had "dessert" as a separate meal/snack an hour or two later; sometimes it was sweet, sometimes fruit or yogurt or whatever. I still eat this way, and my son usually does too, but since Halloween he has been asking for a piece of candy at the end of dinner. We let him have it unless he's been extremely balky about eating real food.

I feel that eating when I am hungry, and only then, is best for my metabolism. Where I see an advantage in scheduling meals and snacks is the reminder to consider eating before I get TOO hungry and to allow TIME for eating in a busy day. My family eats dinner together every night (unless someone is at a meeting or something) and we all are downstairs for an hour in the morning during which everyone eats breakfast, but we don't necessarily eat breakfast at the same time--I need to eat ASAP after awakening, while my partner likes to wait a while, so he usually is making the kid's lunch while I'm eating, and then I'm making my lunch while he's eating, and the kid eats somewhere in there and is playing the rest of the time. At least we're together!
---'Becca

articles said...

What a great article! I just found it this morning, and it inspired me to go ahead and write about how playing restaurant improves our family meals. I agree with a lot of your misgivings about the feasibility of some of the ideas from the book for your own life...but I find that sometimes when I switch off the "should" thoughts and just TRY something, I find that it works for us better than I thought it would--maybe with some adjustments.

I also grew up in a family that did not eat dessert at the end of a meal. However, we always had "dessert" as a separate meal/snack an hour or two later; sometimes it was sweet, sometimes fruit or yogurt or whatever. I still eat this way, and my son usually does too, but since Halloween he has been asking for a piece of candy at the end of dinner. We let him have it unless he's been extremely balky about eating real food.

I feel that eating when I am hungry, and only then, is best for my metabolism. Where I see an advantage in scheduling meals and snacks is the reminder to consider eating before I get TOO hungry and to allow TIME for eating in a busy day. My family eats dinner together every night (unless someone is at a meeting or something) and we all are downstairs for an hour in the morning during which everyone eats breakfast, but we don't necessarily eat breakfast at the same time--I need to eat ASAP after awakening, while my partner likes to wait a while, so he usually is making the kid's lunch while I'm eating, and then I'm making my lunch while he's eating, and the kid eats somewhere in there and is playing the rest of the time. At least we're together!
---'Becca

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