Helping Your Kids Create a Healthy Relationship with Food

*This post was originally published on the Bitsy’s Brainfood Blog. To see the original please click here.

Nutrition Comes in All Forms AND the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Agrees!
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and Mom

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Sugar has definitely received a bad rap this past year. Its poor reputation is very similar to the negative press that fat received in years past. Research is constant and correlations are often made—while causation is rarely determined. As mothers and fathers, how does this affect they way you feed your child? Do you go with the latest diet trend? Do you impose your food beliefs on your children? If so, how are you talking with your children about these beliefs? Remember, when all is said and done, these are just beliefs—not necessarily black and white facts.

With this is mind, remember all food provides nutrition—even Skittles and saturated fats (i.e. coconut oil). However, I am not implying you should feed your kids a diet of sugar and saturated fats. Rather, I am suggesting that as parents, we must watch our wording and behaviors associated with various foods. Our children are smart and pick up on our food issues. Yet most children—like many adults—are not (yet) capable of separating food and feelings or such strong statements into rational thoughts.

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Many RDs and parents want to scream, “Corn syrup is bad!” but telling your child this may be more harmful than helpful. I am trying to write this as delicately as possible, but think about it: Does a pack of candy or a bread made with corn syrup versus rice syrup really matter? No. Yet many moms label these as “bad.” As a mother of two boys, I do not completely negate these foods and constantly prefer that my boys eat more wholesome foods. As parents we must walk a very fine line in how we convey healthy habits to children. We may use different educational tools to discuss nutrient density, food processing, and overall diet quality, but it is also our job to prevent children from fearing their food, fearing weight gain, and fearing feeding themselves.

Instilling fear of food and feeding in a child can even be one of the contributors to the feeding disorder known as “Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder” (ARFID,) especially if a child is already prone to anxiety or is a picky eater.

You can be the mom that hands your children M&M’s some of the time. Know that sugar candy is converted to exactly that, sugar in the body. The brain only uses sugar; our muscles store sugar for easy access during long bouts of exercise (playing a long soccer game, playing outside all day long, or swimming in the pool for many hours as kids are wont to do).  While not an ideal food for growth, sugar still provides energy. Take into consideration that when we don’t make a big deal about these sugary foods, kids will be less likely to ask for them in the first place.

– See more at the Bitsy’s Brainfood Blog

 

References:

Stein, K. Severely restricted diets in the absence of medical necessity: the unintended consequences. J Am Diet Assoc. 2014;114(7):986-994.

 

News Flash: The AND Recommendations Feature Ellyn Satter's Model

News Flash: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Reports Their Latest Recommendations and Ellyn Satter’s Model Is Part of It.

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We are all inundated with nutrition messages. Messages range from our pediatricians to our mom friends, and of course from the media. Just last month, AND released their position paper on nutrition guidance for healthy children ages two through eleven. Well in 1999, I was introduced to the works of Ellyn Satter called Feeding with Love and Good Sense and Treating the Dieting Casualty.  I was stumped on how to be a RD if diets didn’t work. Well, a more seasoned RD recommended this three-day workshop in Madison, Wisconsin, taught by Ellyn Satter who was both a RD and a LCSW.  So of course I attended the three-day intensive led by Satter called “Treating the Dieting Casualty”. It changed my life and that of my clients. I was hooked and then went on to study her approach on feeding children. The most amazing thing is that upon reading the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ position paper for “Nutrition Guidance for Healthy Children Ages 2 to 11 Years,” I see that Satter’s recommendations are being officially incorporated. This is a great achievement for all.

 

Now, fifteen years later, many RDs know her work but not all parents do. I have cut and pasted some of the important highlights from the position paper that is associated with her approach. Most of the contributors on Mom Dishes It Out follow a similar approach, but if you want the original real deal, buy one of Satter’s books.

 

Encourage Internal Regulationi:

When parents assume control of food portions or coerce children to eat rather than allow them to focus on their internal cues of hunger, their ability to regulate meal size is diminished. In general, parental control, especially restrictive feeding practices, tends to be associated with overeating and poorer self-regulation of energy in-take in preschool-aged children and was predictive of overweight. This may be problematic among girls with a high BMI and may contribute to the chronic dieting and dietary restraint that has become common among American girls and young women.

 

Responsive Feedingi:

Use of a responsive feeding approach, in which the care provider recognizes and responds to the child’s hunger and satiety cues, has been incorporated into numerous federal and international food and nutrition programs. A “nonresponsive feeding” approach (i.e., forcing or pressuring a child to eat or restricting food intake, indulgent feeding, or uninvolved feeding) has been associated with overweight and obesity.

  

Food Environmenti:

Although children seem to possess an innate ability to self-regulate their energy in- takes, their food environment affects the extent to which they are able to exercise this ability. Offering large food portions (especially energy-dense, sweet, or salty foods), feeding practices that pressure or restrict eating, or modeling of excessive consumption can all undermine self-regulation in children.

 

Division Of Responsibilityi:

 As early as the 1950s, recommendations for allowing young children to self-regulate were being made. Ellyn Satter, MSSW, RD, advocates a “Division of Responsibility” approach to feeding children. These premises, which incorporate principles of responsive feeding, have now been adopted by many national groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and USDA (MyPlate). With this approach, the role of parents and other caregivers in feeding is to provide structured opportunities to eat, developmentally appropriate support, and suitable food and beverage choices, without coercion to eat. Children are responsible for determining whether and how much to eat from what is offered.

 

The Food Relationshipi:

Early parental influence is associated with the development of a child’s relationship with food later in life. For example, young-adult eating habits, such as eating all food on the plate, using food as an incentive or threat, eating dessert, and eating regularly scheduled meals were related to the same feeding practices reportedly used by their parents during their childhood.

 

For Further Reading:

 


[i] Ogata BN, Hayes D. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Nutrition Guidance for Healthy Children Ages 2 to 11 Years.” (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2014), 114:1257–76.