August celebrates Kids Eat Right Month! This month as we prepare for back-to-school, it is a great time to ensure our children have the nutrition they need to grow up as healthy adults. Whether your child is a picky eater or claims broccoli as their favorite food, following the Division of Responsibly in Feeding is the best approach.
The Division of Responsibility in Feeding was developed by a registered dietitian who specializes in children's nutrition and recognizes children have natural ability with eating. Just think to when a baby breastfeeds, the baby will breastfeed for as long as they need before pushing away; babies may breastfeed for different durations during different days and times. Remarkably, children know how to eat as much as they need.
Children also grow in the way that is right for them. When looking at a child's growth, we use growth charts. As long as a child is trending on a curve, their curve, it will be okay! Each child has a slightly different curve and that's ok. If a child is between the 15th and 85th percentiles, do not make an issue of their weight. Furthermore, we rarely want a child to lose weight. When a child has excess weight, we want them to maintain as they continue to grow thus bringing them to a healthy weight for their height. Instead of making an issue about their weight, insure they have access to nutritious foods and lead by example.
Lastly, children learn to eat the food their parents eat. Just as mentioned above, parents must lead by example. We cannot expect children to be willing to eat foods if their parents won't. It is okay to not like some foods, but is important to like other nutritious foods to create healthy plates.
Overall, step-by-step, throughout their growing-up years, children will build on their natural ability and become competent eaters as adults. So, how do parents do this? Parents let them learn and grow with eating when they follow the Division of Responsibility in Feeding.
The Division of Responsibility in Feeding
Parents’ feeding jobs:
- Choose and prepare the food.
- Provide regular meals and snacks.
- Make eating times pleasant - do not discuss discipline or sensitive topics at the table.
- Show children by example how to behave at family mealtime - such as not spitting food out.
- Be considerate of children’s lack of food experience without catering to likes and dislikes.
- Not let children have food or beverages (except for water) between meal and snack times.
- Let children grow up to get bodies that are right for them.
Children’s eating jobs:
- Children will eat.
- They will eat the amount they need.
- They will learn to eat the food their parents eat.
- They will grow predictably.
- They will learn to behave well at mealtime.
When taking a step back to think about it, it's simple. Parents are responsible for providing food and children are responsible to eating. If a child chooses not to eat at a meal, that's okay because they will have another meal in a few hours. We want to limit snacking to specific times like meals because when snacking too much, a child will not be hungry for a nutrient dense meal. While this may be difficult at first, stick with it! Your child will thank you as a healthy adult.
This week, be sure to stop in and choose blueberries as a healthy snack for kids or add to cereal or pancakes for a more nutritious breakfast. Blueberries are a source of fiber which promote gut health and heart health for all ages. Happy, healthy eating!
The Ellyn Satter Institute is a great resource for more information about raising healthy children.
"This medical and/or nutritional information is not intended to be a substitute for individual advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition."
Stephanie is an award-winning registered dietitian who believes in empowering every individual to make nutritious food choices to support a healthy lifestyle. She believes in the power of food as medicine and loves sharing about nutrition with others.