5 Common Feeding Mistakes Parents Make

MISTAKE #1: Interfering with Eating

Whether it’s two more bites, not allowing seconds or insisting on a child eating a certain food in order to get dessert, parents often try to control their child’s food intake at mealtime. Parents are especially more likely to pressure a thin child to eat more, and a larger child to eat less.

Why it’s a mistake?

Children are born with the natural ability to regulate their food intake. When parents try to get children to eat less or more, they teach children not to trust their body, which can hinder self-regulation. Pressuring to eat results in less food intake, while restricting a child at mealtime increases the likelihood they will sneak foods or overeat whenever they have the opportunity.

The FIX:

Parents decide the WHAT, WHEN and WHERE of feeding, and children decide the HOW MUCH and WHETHER of eating. This not only helps children self-regulate and build confidence in their eating, it makes mealtime more peaceful.

MISTAKE #2: No Structure

Why it’s a mistake?

Without somewhat of an eating schedule, children will not learn to eat out of hunger; they learn to eat out of habit. They never really understand what hunger means. They often end up eating too little at mealtimes, because they have snacked all day, or they eat large amounts at mealtimes because the last time they ate may have been several hours earlier. The result is poor food regulation and eating when not truly hungry.

The FIX:

Structured meals and snacks at predictable times and in designated places, like the kitchen table. Young toddlers need to eat about every 2 to 3 hours, preschoolers every 3 to 4 hours and older children about every 4 hours. When children want to leave after eating very little, remind them when the next meal is, and when they want to eat between meals remind them they can have fruits/vegetables or wait until the next mealtime.

MISTAKE #3: Short-order Cooking

Why it’s a mistake?

If children refuse to eat what is offered, and are given an alternative instead, this tells them that you don’t expect them to eat healthy or try new foods. Children really can (and will) learn to eat a variety of foods.

The FIX:

Parents decide WHAT foods are offered. Children can decide IF they will eat it and HOW MUCH. Let your child know that you believe they could start eating more things. Make one dinner meal. It’s okay to ask for input when planning meals. However, if children decide not to eat what is offered, there should not be alternatives. It will not hurt them to miss a meal once in awhile if they refuse to eat what you have made.

MISTAKE #4: Pushing Veggies

Why it’s a mistake?

Young children are often sensitive to the bitter taste of many vegetables, something that decreases over time. When parents  push, force or bribe their child to eat vegetables, children may  become even more resistant to trying them.

The FIX:

Always offer them! If can take several times of offering a vegetable before a child will try it, and several more times before it becomes something they eat regularly. Don’t give up! Many times kids (and adults) like vegetables a certain way. Try offering them cooked and uncooked, this can often be all it takes to get them eaten. Get creative. Parents can offer vegetables in a variety of ways such as raw with dip, make-your-own salads, and in yummy smoothies.  And if parents eat them, kids are more likely to eat them also.

MISTAKE #5: Fixing What Isn’t Broken

Why it’s a mistake?

Parents might assume that some eating behaviors are “not normal” and respond inappropriately– babies may refuse puree, picky toddlers, school-age kids want to eat what their friends eat, and dieting teens. All of these behaviors are a normal part of child development. Instead of trying to “fix” the behavior work with your child and role model healthy eating habits.

The FIX:

Prepare for each stage. Give babies the opportunity to try age-appropriate foods. Most toddlers don’t need as much food as parents think, allow them to choose from the foods YOU offer. Allow school age children to fit in with their peers, allowing some foods within reason. Ask question if your teen displays odd food behavior and be there as a guide and role model.

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