The Division of Responsibility Changed Me & My Clients! – Guest Post by Dana Snook RDN

dana snookDana Snook is a family nutrition expert based in New Jersey, USA. When we were chatting over twitter and Dana mentioned that she had done some training with Ellyn Satter that had radically changed  how she worked with families , I was keen to hear more.  I invited Dana to write a guest post about what she had got from learning from Ellyn Satter and how it had shaped her as a professional.

I can remember the excitement when I accepted my first Pediatric Registered Dietitian position. I took the position with only a small amount of experience,but ready to learn everything I could. The realism hit, when the retired pediatric dietitian who was training me was less than impressed with my lack of experience and even more so my thoughts on feeding children. She wanted me to give meal plans, calculate calories and even put kids on diets. Let’s just say, it felt wrong…really wrong! So rather than learning from someone with LOTS of experience, I went right to trusty old Google. What I stumbled upon was so much more than just WHAT to feed your family, but HOW to feed your family. It is called the Division of Responsibility of Feeding by Ellyn Satter. Continue reading

EAF principle 3…

Background From Colorful Sweets Of Sugar Candies

Rewarding with food is standard parenting practice – for example, many parents use sweet treats to encourage their child to use the potty, or  to recognise good behaviour. This gives the child the following message: “I approve of you, and so you can have  sweet food” . To take it a step further, from the child’s point of view, it equates eating sweet food with feeling loved. EAF is all about separating food from feelings so that children eat for physiological rather than emotional reasons.

Rewarding with food  fuses food and feelings. 

Consider adult comfort eating Continue reading

Keep calm and carry on!


This EAF principle is all about the importance of your emotional reaction to your child’s eating. Why is it important? Well, because your feelings have a profound effect on your child’s eating behaviour.

Keep it real

The first thing to understand is that, however hard you try, you just can’t hide your true feelings from a child. You might think you’ve done a pretty good job but children are emotional sponges – whilst they often don’t understand or even have the words for many of the feelings around them, they certainly experience them.  They absorb your anxiety, your frustration and your pleasure, whether you want them to or not.

All of this then influences how they behave. If you want your child’s eating decisions to be disentangled from her feelings (and if you practice EAF, this will be a central goal) you need to be very self-aware and learn to be genuinely calm in the face of your child’s reactions to food.

 The ‘why’

First of all, you have to understand why you feel the way you do. Why does your son or daughter refusing food that you have taken time to prepare make you feel so…worried / furious / frustrated (delete as applicable).  As parents, feeding our children is almost our raison d’être – it’s how we ensure the very survival of the human race. It’s part of  how we express our love, how we nurture our children. When feeding goes wrong, this can be very challenging emotionally. Coupled with this very natural urge to ensure that our children eat well, we all have our own relationships with food coupled with many complex influences from our own childhoods. All of this needs processing in  order to get to a point where it’s possible to feel genuinely calm at mealtimes.

The ‘how’

Ok, so having decided to aim for calm, upbeat meals, how do you make that vision a reality? This is something I write about in detail in my book, but here’s some pointers :

  • Have your child weighed and measured by a health professional, that way you can be reassured that their growth is normal (as research shows us it is in the vast majority of picky eaters)
  • Understand your own ‘food legacy’ ( part of the emotional baggage each of us carries with us from childhood) I explain more about this here.
  • Focus on positive social interactions at the table - make the talk about what everyone has done that day, what’s going past the window, ANYTHING but what your child is or isn’t eating. This includes letting manners slide for a bit. It’s hard to keep things positive when you’re being critical about the finer points of table etiquette.

Continue reading

JUNE is EAF month…..









This month I will be publishing a series of posts summarising the EAF rules. If you don’t have time to read my book about picky eating, or you prefer your parenting advice in small bites, this series is for you. Although it is based in psychological theory and research, EAF is a straightforward and practical philosophy that can be reduced to  a few simple rules and principles.  Here is the first :

‘Never praise or criticise how or what your child is eating’


Mealtime criticism comes in many forms. It’s very easy to compare your child’s eating to that of siblings “why can’t you be a good eater like Isobel?” This makes your child feel labelled and will actually make picky eating worse. It’s amazing how children will live up to your expectations, both positive or negative.  Continue reading

What are you bringing to the table?

When I work with the families of picky eaters, I begin with an in-depth assessment. Parents are expecting my questions about how feeding progressed in the early days and about the transition from breast or bottle to solids. What they are not necessarily expecting are questions about their own food history.

What can your childhood food memories tell you?

Your food legacy

We all bring our own unique baggage to the task of parenting. Our attitudes and beliefs are very much shaped by our childhood experiences. Sometimes we unconsciously repeat how we were parented, sometimes we very consciously choose to do things differently. Either way, our own pasts are there in the background.

I call the thoughts and feelings associated with eating that we carry with us from childhood our ‘food legacy‘. Until you have spent time thinking and talking about your food legacy, you won’t be able to fully appreciate how it impacts on your child’s relationship with food.

Let me give you an example. Continue reading

My Interview with Simone Emery, founder of Play With Food (Australia)

simone emerySimone Emery is mother of 2, wife and owner of Play with Food in Sydney, Australia. Simone has a masters degree in food studies, certificate in childrens nutrition and attended SOS Feeding Therapy training. Play with Food  run healthy eating experiences for children. Play with Food offer set programs and can also tailor workshops or programs to groups.

1)You run ‘fruit and vegetable classes’ for children – can you tell me a bit about what this entails?

I run fun group classes for children that use fruits and vegetables. I run the classes for 3 age brackets; 18mth – 3yrs, 3yrs-5yrs and 5yrs-7yrs. Each age bracket has their own developmental considerations causing different eating behaviours. We sing, play, explore and laugh our way through weekly 45 minute classes. The children are encouraged to play with the food to a level they are comfortable with. For example, while we are playing with carrot some kids may be happy to roll it on their fingers and others may kiss it and others will eat it. Parents learn routines, nutritional information and food preparation ideas that they can take home with them.

2) How did you become interested in helping children eat well?

I spent my pre-baby days working in the food manufacturing environment. I held roles in food technology, quality assurance, health and safety. I wanted a career change that maximised my food knowledge, love of cooking and my passion for learning and development. I had a keen interest in children’s feeding from a mother’s perspective. I studied children’s nutrition whilst on maternity leave & started looking for my career change opportunity. I fall more in love with helping children develop healthy eating skills each day. It is so rewarding.

3) What’s your take on picky eating?

I feel that it’s important for every parent to walk in their child’s shoes and recognise their individuality. I think there is a level of picky eating that will arise during fussy times for all children. There are also sensory, oral motor, dietary sensitivity and pain associations during feeding for some children. These feeding issues can be mistaken as picky eating. I use the term “picky eater” (or fussy eater in Australia) for parents as it is a commonplace term they can relate too, however, using labels can be detrimental to the child and will also form a barrier for parents too.

4) If you were asked to give a new parent one piece of advice about how to help children form a positive relationship with food, what would that be? Continue reading

Are you a parent on a diet? How you talk about food matters.

It matters because everything you say around food and everything you do around food, is being absorbed by the living sponge that is your child.

bigstock-Green-Healthy-Food-14336978What we tell our children forms a tiny percentage of their learning, whether we’re talking about how to treat one another, how to cross the road safely or how to behave at mealtimes. The real influence is…… US.  If  you  raise your voice to tell your child not to shout, you’re actually giving her the opposite message. Ditto if you smack your child for being aggressive (but that’s another debate) . The behaviour we demonstrate, or ‘model’ to use the technical term, sends our children thousands of messages about how to relate to the world.  It starts young – picture your toddler trying to copy you as you go about your day. Children are hard-wired to imitate.

In 2012, almost a quarter of US adults said they were on a diet at some point during the year. Older data from the UK placed the figure slightly higher, with more than one in four adults on a diet  “most of the time”.  Millions of parents will be controlling what they eat because they want to loose weight – what does this mean for their children?

Three things to avoid if you’re a parent on a diet:

  1. GUILT – guilt is a destructive emotion. If your child hears you talking about food guiltily,  she will learn to  connect eating and emotions
  2. SELF LOATHING - If your child hears you saying you are fat, you don’t like your body, etc, she will learn to feel disgust at her body too
  3. TEMPTATION – If you describe how much you want to eat something ‘forbidden’, your child will absorb the message that sweet or unhealthy treats are to be aspired to whilst the healthy stuff is hard work. This is something I’ve written about elsewhere.

Instead,  try to serve the whole family the same meal as far as possible.  I’m not suggesting you put your entire family on the cabbage soup diet, but if your children can eat what you are eating without compromising their well-being, why not get healthier together?

Talk about wanting to be ‘healthy’ as opposed to ‘thin’  and if you want your children to enjoy their food, show them that you enjoy yours.