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Over Control Fosters Out-of-Control in Child Feeding

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The holidays are upon us! ‘Tis the season for lots of parties, celebrations and atypical eating. Our eating schedules are stretched, and juggled -- along with our to-do lists to balance our normal daily responsibilities.

This is the time of year when we can model confident behaviors around food and eating. It is also a time when we can cause unintended harm to our children by our conversations around food. Discussions about how holiday foods are not on your “clean” eating plan or fears discussed about desserts causing weight gain are not words that little ears should hear.

As a pediatric feeding specialist and mother of two teenagers, I get it. We want our children to grow up to be happy and healthy adults. That goal is shared by all parents, yet the way we go about that may have the opposite effect as what was intended.

Children are born with an innate ability to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are satisfied. As parents, although with the best of intentions, we tend to do things that pull kids away from trusting their body cues that allow them to know when they need to eat. Here are a handful of actual scenarios we regularly hear about at Lemond Nutrition (names are made up in each scenario):

  • "Mia" appears very thin to their parents and/or has even been told by their pediatrician that the child is not gaining enough weight. The parents start making the child eat more than he/she wants at meals and/or snacks.
  • It’s dinner time. "Johnny" has not eaten for several hours. Despite Johnny telling his parents that he is not hungry, he is told that he cannot get up from the table until he eats an expected amount of food.
  • "Sophia" appears to be gaining excessive weight to her parents and/or has been told by their pediatrician that she is gaining excessive weight.  The parents tell Sophia she may not have seconds, despite her saying that she's still hungry, because they think she has already had enough.
  • Parents tell "Chad" not to eat so many “carbs” and how foods with “white carbs” will make him fat.
"Children are born with an innate ability to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are satisfied." Angela Lemond, RDN

We want our children to have food confidence. If we strip that away, we often create the opposite of what was intended. Kids can develop food fears associated with eating that could make them undereat or overeat.  We often see those kids as adults and they still struggle with the same issues that stem from their childhood.  Here are some things to remember when feeding your children:

  • Children should have the ability to determine how much they want to eat at meals and snacks. As parents, you have the authority to determine what food is provided. But they decide to eat it or not eat it.
  • Avoid making any comments that will make a child feel scared of a certain food or food group.
  • Provide a wide variety of foods instead of a small selection due to one or more people in the families taste preferences.  
  • Involve your children in the food process as early as possible in age-appropriate ways. Meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking is great when responsibilities are shared across the entire family. This helps build skills that will increase confidence with food.
  • Create pleasant memories around food instead of fearful ones. Keep discussions and memories surrounding food pleasant, low stress, and safe.

At Lemond Nutrition, our pediatric and adolescent dietitian experts know how to approach these issues when it comes to eating and feeding children in a way that helps and not hurts. We work alongside the parents to get the family eating behaviors balanced in a way that allows babies, toddlers, children, and teens to thrive in their environments. Many of us are parents as well, and fully understand that parenting does not come with a operation manual!  

If you have any nutrition issues that you would like to discuss with one of our specialists, give us a call at 888-422-8070. Insurance typically covers our visit.

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