When it comes to children, we all want them to be “good eaters,” but what does that look like and how does that happen? A child who is a good eater is working towards eating competence. He feels good about eating and enjoys eating. He enjoys mealtimes and behaves well there. He picks and chooses from foods made available — even letting new foods sneak up on him. He determines for himself how much to eat allowing his body to grow into the body that nature intended.
To raise a good eater means that adults need skills to feed well. Feeding a child is no small task — it’s a part of parenting that needs to be taken seriously. Like anything else, avoiding future problems is about being proactive before a problem develops. Over the years, parents and health care providers have done a good job learning about foods, how they can enhance our health or potentially interfere with good health. This information is incorporated into our public health policy within the dietary guidelines. Most of us are familiar with the messages: eat more fruits and vegetables, eat whole grains, avoid refined foods, eat more fish, eat less red meat, eat less sugar, etc.
However, just because we know what foods are good for us, doesn’t mean we eat them. And sometimes following the rules about the right and wrong foods to eat can feel overwhelming and unachievable. So much so that we don’t like to try them or even resist trying them and feel bad about it. Adults may feel ashamed that they can’t do what they should and children may feel bad that they can’t please their parents. In the end, our nutritional health may suffer because of it.
It may have something to do with the fact that we know a lot about what to eat and feed our children, but we don’t know how to go about it and why it is so important. With all our efforts to teach adults and children, we have ignored the behavior around eating and feeding. We have misunderstood the time it takes to allow the process of eating and feeding well to be achieved. It’s a good time to learn more about how to feed and eat.
Lifestyle Health at CentraCare is eager to offer classes on how to feed your child ages 0-5 years. The goal of the class is to help you raise a child who is a joy to feed and avoid common feeding problems that can develop in young children due to well intentioned, but often misguided feeding practices. Read more about Feeding With Love and Good Sense.
And if you feel that what you have read here about children relates to you as an adult, then consider the adult offering: How To Eat. This class is based on the same eating competence model and focuses on our approach to how we feed ourselves. Eating competent adults raise eating competent children, so it makes sense to explore your own relationship with food. Read more about Lifestyle Health’s offering for adults, How To Eat.
The Feeding With Love and Good Sense and How to Eat offerings are based on the Ellyn Satter Feeding and Eating models for children and adults.
Jennifer Harris, RDN LD CEDRD
Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian
St. Cloud Hospital Behavioral Health Clinic