Why I say ‘no thank-you’ to the no thank-you bite…

The no thank-you bite is everywhere.  The concept is this: your child can leave whatever they wish, but they must try a bite of everything. If they don’t like something they have tried, they can politely refuse to eat any more.   This resembles EAF in that  children are encouraged to be polite and respectful about disliking something on their plates. Equally, for the most part, it is up to them how much of their meal they consume.  However, once you insist on a no thank-you bite, you cannot truly end the entanglement of food and feelings that is to blame for so many cases of picky eating. I would even go so far as to say that I believe that using this technique will make picky eating worse. Continue reading

Does your parenting style affect your child’s eating?

I read an article from the US news channel CBS the other day, about Canadian research that explores the influence of parenting style on childhood obesity. The findings were stark:

“Kids with demanding parents who are rigid about rules, stingy with affection and won’t discuss limits are far more likely to be obese than children whose parents practice a more balanced parenting style…”

Photo from Daily Mail

Photo from Daily Mail

This called to mind similar research I had read  into how parenting style can impact upon picky eating.  One study* found that, put simply, the nicer the atmosphere at the table, the less picky the child is likely to be. Another looked at how families interact and concluded that the levels of conflict at the table and how controlling parents were influenced how much children consumed, with higher levels of control leading to an increase in fussiness and food rejection**.

I think it’s really interesting that the Canadian research pointed to the fact that children who are not used to having the freedom to discuss and question things (and are therefore unlikely to be in the habit of being empowered to make their own decisions) are more likely to be obese.  And this is where I would speculate that these different findings converge –  when children are not able to eat in a relaxed environment  and when parents are trying to control children’s eating choices, food starts to get used dysfunctionally. Continue reading

Become a Snack-tivist!

sally K American writer Sally Kuzemchak is a mother of two and a registered dietitian. She is based in Columbus, Ohio.  I connected with  her on twitter ( you can follow her @RMNutrition) and the way she writes about  nutrition with such sanity and humour really appealed to me. I am especially interested in her thoughts on snacking and so I invited  her to write a guest post on the subject. I hope you enjoy reading about ‘snacktivism’ as much as I did.

Guest post by Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD

I can pinpoint the exact moment when the snacks put me over the edge. It was after a soccer game, and my 6-year-old son had just half-heartedly jogged around the field for 30 minutes. I don’t remember if we won or lost, but regardless, the occasion was treated like a celebration—with frosted cupcakes, Oreos, and punch. I watched as the kids snatched up the goodies, some of them clutching multiple Oreos in each hand. I was overcome by one thought: What are we doing to our kids?

When I was growing up, we (maybe) had orange slices at halftime during our soccer games. Then we all went home afterwards and ate a proper lunch or dinner. We didn’t celebrate each game with cupcakes. And treats weren’t trotted out at every single gathering as they seem to be today. Treats were for parties, for special celebrations. Not because we met as a group or participated in a sporting event.
According to research, kids are getting about 500 calories a day from snacks—and most of that is coming from chips, cookies, crackers, and other processed foods. “Snack” has become synonymous with “treat”, instead of simply a way to tide kids over from meal to meal or as we dietitians like to suggest, to “fill in the gaps” from meals. Continue reading

Snack week!

Earlier this month I wrote about hunger and how it’s become culturally normal to [over] protect our children from feeling hungry.  How do we do this? Snacks, snacks and more snacks. I’m looking forward to publishing my first guest post on the blog  later this week. It is by Sally Kuzemchak  of ‘Real Mom Nutrition’-she’ll be explaining ‘snacktivism‘ –  her challenge to US snack culture.

Raisins-everyone's favourite toddler snack..

Raisins-everyone’s favourite toddler snack..

It’s been really lovely to hear from readers of War & Peas – I always appreciate feed-back, positive or negative. The thing that my readers have overwhelmingly told me has brought about the greatest change in their families is my stance on snacking.  It’s this simple:  If you practice EAF, if your child doesn’t want the food you have served him, he can leave it, but there are no snacks or alternatives. Equally, if your child is not eating main meals and you are offering snacks, try cutting the snacks out.

Happy grazers…

Some parents are happy giving their child many small meals over the course of a day – they find that grazing works for them and their families. That’s fine. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What I am saying is that if you are concerned about your child’s fussy eating and you want him to be eating three main meals a day, look closely at the snacks you offer. Continue reading

Mindful Eating – my interview with Megrette Fletcher, RD.

Author, speaker and registered dietitian, Megrette Fletcher is a co-founder of The Center for Mindful Eating. She lives and works in New Hampshire, USA

megrette1) I’d love to know a bit more about your background Megrette – what made you decide to become a registered dietitian ?

Long story short. I wanted to be a physiological psychology and I was one of eight students in this PhD track during my undergraduate university.  Then junior year came and I was #7 out of 8.  My major professor said, “We will take the top 2 students – you won’t make the cut. Do you have another option?” I mentioned how interested I was in nutrition and he said, “Great! switch majors.” So…I did. The funny thing is, mindfulness and awareness of our direct experience is all about the brain, which has always been my first love.  A big part of what I do as a nutritionist is talking about what we like, dislike, and our reaction to food.  This is all about behavior and perception which again is about the brain.

Mindfulness and mindful eating begins by observe your direct experiences with food and eating.  For example,  with mindful eating, you might be asked to observe (no action or judgement) if you like something, neutral or dislike. To see this information as information and if you are able, become a bit curious.  Why and I reacting to food? What is going on?

2) Many of my readers may not have heard of mindful eating – can you give us a brief explanation of what mindful eating is and what it has to offer?

Mindful eating is mindfulness applied to food and eating.  The Center for Mindful Eating developed the Principles of mindful eating which are very helpful.Mindfulness is about becoming aware.  Awareness of your direct experience.   This might include noticing things, situations, feelings, thoughts, like and dislikes.  Awareness or mindfulness is a teachable skill.  I heard a lecture that offered this sobering statement about attention. One hundred years ago, our attention span was 22 minutes.  Today it is 8 seconds! (By the way this is the same attention span of a gold fish!).  It is clear to me that awareness is a ‘muscle’ that you can exercise.  If you don’t exercise this ability, you lose it over time. There is so much data and research coming out that our inability to focus, become engaged in our direct experience leads directly to how a person perceives quality of life.  In short, distraction makes us unhappy and we don’t feel like life has much quality!    Continue reading

Picky eating and the H-word…

Here in the UK, our toddlers are the proud winners of the prize for the highest levels of picky eating in whole of whole of Europe. I’m interested in how we achieved that accolade – I’ve yet to explore eating patterns in other European countries (it’s on my bucket list) but I have a sneaking suspicion it might have something to do with hunger.

As parents, we  feel that it is part of our job to make sure that our children never get hungry. We never leave the house without a snack,  no car journey can get under way until raisins  have been distributed and every playgroup in the land is punctuated by snack-time.

toddler snacksChildren should experience hunger – they should sit down to meals hungry and get up from them full. It’s part of the natural rhythm of the day. I’m not talking about the kind of hunger that is born of deprivation, I’m thinking of hunger in the context of appropriate meals being offered at appropriate times.

Many health professionals advocate  two snacks a day for young children and that’s fine, IF they are also hungry at mealtimes. My message is simple – if your child is refusing food at breakfast, lunch or dinner, cut out the snacks. In fact,  I’ve had dramatically more feedback from readers of War & Peas about my stance on snacking than on any other aspect of my approach. It really does work.  So much so, that I’m going to be having a dedicated snack week on the blog, featuring a guest post about ‘snacktivism’ – one US mother’s fight against American snack culture. Continue reading

Book review – Top Tips for Fussy Eaters by Gina Ford

First off, can I state that I haven’t set out to indulge in a little mid-week Gina Ford bashing? That’s too easy and it’s been done to death. Having said that, every time I hear her mentioned, I can’t help but remember my friend ritually burning  The Contented Little Baby Book because her baby hadn’t read that she was supposed to be napping every day at 9 and 2 and wouldn’t play ball.

Top Tips for Fussy Eaters

Top Tips for Fussy Eaters

When I saw that Gina Ford had written a book on fussy eating, I was curious to find out what she had to say. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised. Her advice is, on the whole, sound and she is much less prescriptive than I was expecting. This book isn’t heavy on content but if you’re a busy parent, maybe that’s a good thing. It’s teeny – a little square book with big print, literally half of which is filled with case-studies, FAQs and recipes. If you’re after an in-depth exploration of picky eating, look away now. Continue reading