Dr. Peter McIlveen cites a study about Childhood Obesity in his LinkedIn where you can read part one of this post. The study took place at Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science and focuses on the way caregivers feed their children in addition to what they feed them. Ihuoma Eneli, MD, and medical director found that single, poor or divorced mothers were more likely to pressure their kids to eat than women with partners. Both Asian and African American mothers were more restrictive about their child’s eating habits than Caucasian women.
Women reported that they induced a pleasant meal time; however, the study broke down the mother’s feeding roles into three areas. “They [mothers] were telling their kids how much to eat, and if their child didn’t like what was served, parents were behaving like short order cooks and fixing alternative meals,” Eneli notes. Eneli is also a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
Eneli and her team came up with a feeding dynamic intervention for mothers of 3-5 year olds to see if they could implement any changes. As a mother herself, she empathizes with mothers who want their child to eat a balanced meal and assures the mothers that they still have control but they need to give their child the perception that they are in control. Giving the child the perception they are in control is important to help establish a healthy relationship with food. She gives a few tips:
Take dessert off its pedestal: Make dessert a smaller part of the regular meal instead of an award for eating everything. Your child will probably eat the dessert first for about a week or so, but then it will no longer be a novelty. Eventually your child will learn to savor it after finishing her meal. Additionally, you will remove the concept of offering a reward for finishing a certain portion of food where the reward should be feeling full.
Serve smaller portions of everything: Serving smaller portions lets the child feel full on their own. It gives the option to get seconds or munch on a fruit or vegetable after the meal. This will also allow the child to have her opinion respected and thus she grows a feeling of trust associated with food.
Let your child choose snack time: After lunch, ask your child when they want to have snack time. Later if they get hungry, remind them that they picked a snack time; remind them they are in control.
Does your kid spit out veggies? That’s part of the process: Negative reactions to how your child responds to food can be seen as being bad but keep figuring out ways to introduce the food. Does your child like the taste of butter, the taste of salt, ranch dressing or something else?
Only serve food in the kitchen. This is crucial.
Choose your words wisely: Talking about food too much may create anxiety associated with food. Be conscious of whether or not you are talking about food too much.
Pick your battles: Always serve one thing you know your child will eat. If they choose not to eat anything else, you know they have ingested something. When your child realizes you are not trying to battle them, they start eating what you give them. Stay positive and firm and remember that children have the ability to learn healthy eating if you let them. It may just take time so be patient.