Picky Eaters? Food Guilt? Keep Reading, Mama...

Me: My kid won't be a picky eater.

Also Me: Yes, crackers and cream cheese ARE the 4 major food groups.

If you're looking for some no-stress, no-guilt advice on feeding children - keep reading.

One night my daughter was refusing dinner, and I was doing exactly what I'd been conditioned to do my whole life - "eat, eat, finish your meal!" Still went to bed basically on 4 blueberries. That night, she puked. Huh. Turns out she knew what her body needed, or didn't need, after all - not me, the mom.

Shortly after that a Balance 365 podcast episode gave me SO much insight and helpful tips - without stress or guilt - on how to go about feeding these little humans and setting them up for success. Success meaning enjoying food, guilt free, shame free, and with the ability to self regulate and know their own body.

Recently, the To Birth & Beyond podcast also released a podcast on this topic - driving home these same principles on how to allow our children to become competent eaters.

The common factor between both podcasts is the underlying research and data based on years of experience and knowledge from Ellyn Satter. 

Some of the highlights that have been particularly useful to me include:

  1. Division of responsibility:

    • Parents: Parents or caregivers decide what, when, and where children eat. What = what goes on their plate, when = regular meals & snack times, which allows them to be hungry and actually eat at mealtime, and where = the physical location - dinner table, outside, etc.

    • Children: Children decide how much, and whether they eat. It's up to the children to choose their portion size.

  2. Praising for TRYING foods - not for finishing it or even eating it.

  3. Having discussions at mealtime that AREN'T food centered. The less we make food a big deal, the less it'll be a big deal to them. This one I found really eye-opening for myself. My instinct is to tell her why things are healthy for her, why she needs to eat them. But really, why do I need to do that? Isn't showing her enough? Letting her experience it for herself. Letting her learn as she goes - both how she feels when she eats, skips a meal, or eats too many cookies and has a stomach ache.

  4. Checking our own biases and stories around food. What messages were you taught as a child, and that you still carry with you? We can learn SO much about our own relationship with food as we teach our own children.

  5. Sugar, dessert, "forbidden food" : There is a ton of great info in both podcasts on this. Jenn from the Balance 365 podcast has some great stories about her own boys surrounding hoarding pop (soda), and Halloween candy overload.

Below are Ellyn's website, as well as the two podcasts if you want to have a listen for yourself. I definitely recommend it all - I can't emphasize enough how much guilt they help remove, and how useful and simple the tips are (even if the tips make you silently squirm inside as you start to implement them in real life, hah!)

  • Ellyn Satter: ellynsatterinstitute.org

  • Balance 365 Podcast: Episode 16: Feeding Our Families - Growing Healthy Relationships With Food

  • To Birth & Beyond Podcast: Episode 65: Raising Competent Eaters with Jillian Murphy