With the proliferation of websites and books devoted to sorting out feeding problems including picky eating, it seems like it is easy to get solutions for your dinnertime troubles by just flipping a few pages or scrolling through a couple of articles. But, like with many other things in life, getting help with picky eating may not be as easy as it seems.
I am excited to see so many feeding professionals offering high quality services to families, whether personally, through their books or online. But a few of my clients and followers came to me after following less trustworthy recommendations and I sometimes found it challenging to “undo” the damage that was already inflicted.
Here are a few signs of feeding strategies that may not be worth implementing.
1. Promises to conquer, ban or resolve picky eating. No one can conquer what it a pretty typical developmental stage in children. Some websites and authors use these phrases as a marketing trick since “picky eating” is such a hot topic. But true feeding professionals will never strive to “fix” picky eating. Rather, they will explain what exactly to expect at this developmental stage, what is normal and what needs more work. Instead of “banning” and “curing” your child’s eating habits, they will help you create the environment that allows your child reach his eating potential.
2. “Failure-proof recipes” that your child will always eat. As a parent of 3 kids, I can assure you that such a recipe does not exist. A better approach is a clear strategy that helps everyone in the family enjoy their meal, including parents (yes, you deserve to eat well, too!). Singling a child out by making special meals for him is likely to exacerbate, not improve the feeding problem.
3. Promoting elimination of one or more food groups or banning certain foods. While restrictive diets may be a necessity for kids with medical conditions, most children can safely enjoy a variety of foods from all food groups. In fact, any type of restriction, be it a food group or calories, is not only extremely hard to implement, but is also likely to backfire.
4. Spotlight on the latest superfood or a supplement. Whether kale, chia or the most powerful antioxidant pill, no single food or nutrient is likely to make or break a child’s nutritional status. An eating pattern is what matters most. Most parents find that the biggest changes in their family nutrition happen when familiar, reliable and wholesome staples are used to prepare simple, reliable and balanced meals. And while a supplement carefully selected by a credentialed professional may help close some nutritional gaps, this recommendation should be made on an individual basis and only if obtaining nutrition from food is not possible.
5. Pledge to *get* your child to eat xyz. Research shows that using pressure techniques with children, even in subtle forms, interferes with their self-regulation and natural drive to enjoy a variety. A healthy relationship with food sounds like a less alluring goal but, in fact, this is something that provides a foundation for your child’s balanced eating habits in the future. Feeling good about eating also increases your child’s chances of maintaining a healthy weight for life.
We are lucky to have numerous blogs and websites that share some great feeding advice. I hope to cover some them in another post. In the meanwhile, here are a few books and other feeding resources that may be a good fit for your family:
Support groups and pages on Facebook:
– Mealtime Hostage – a no-judgement zone to give voice to your feeding struggles and get support from moms who are in a similar situation
– Parenting Picky Eaters – a community of parents dedicated to helping their children learn good eating habits as well as develop a healthy relationship with food. They believe in a no-pressure, responsive, positive approach to feeding and mealtimes that considers the child’s developmental level and is built on trust. Moderated by a sensory play specialist, food sociology specialist and yours truly, a dietitian.
– “Fearless Feeding” by Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen – a comprehensive encyclopedia on child feeding, with a solid research based content, covering nutrition for children from 6 months to 18 years.
– Ellyn Satter’s “Child of mine” – a must read for every parents who want to learn all the important “how-to”s of feeding.
– Katja Rowell’s “Love me, Feed me” – although written for parents of adoptive and fostered kids, this book is a perfect match for all families who struggle with feeding.
– “Extreme Picky Eating Help” by Katja Rowell and Jenny McGlothlin – delivers exactly what is promised, making parents of extreme picky eaters finally feel understood and supported.
– Maryann Jacobsen’s “From picky to powerful” – An easy and short read, this e-book is truly empowering to parents because it helps them change the way they think about picky eating.
Have you looked for picky eater help online and in books? Did you find what you needed? Any other pitfalls you would add to the list?