Mess and your picky eater

Child In PuddleI have a two year old. This means that a lot of my time is spent picking food up from every visible surface (and some less visible ones… it’s amazing what the underside of a booster-seat can harbour). Sometimes this is frustrating, sometimes it’s plain disgusting. It is, however, essential. Here are three reasons why messy mealtimes are so important:

1.If you are feeling stressed and worried about mess, your child will pick up these feelings

So much of picky eating is about emotions.  I have written elsewhere about how children are little emotional sponges, subconsicously sensing all the feelings around them, even if they cannot always understand or interpret them. If you are anxious about your child making a mess, she will feel anxious too. This will without doubt negatively affect her eating.

2. If you make a big effort to avoid messy mealtimes, your child will learn that food  can be threatening

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Your diet during pregnancy can help prevent picky eating

Eat a varied diet during pregnancy

Eat a healthy and varied diet during pregnancy

Doing what you can to try to prevent your child becoming a picky eater does not start with weaning. It does not even start with how you feed your new-born (although there is some interesting research about the impact of breastfeeding on  children’s food preferences). It starts in pregnancy.

According to the very informative ‘what to expect’ website, babies are tasting the amniotic fluid that surrounds them from about 21 weeks.

Researchers at the Monell Chemical Center in Philadelphia,  found that what a mother eats in pregnancy heavily influences her child’s palate. The New York Times quoted researcher Julie Menella who was involved in the study. She puts it bluntly:

“…where you start is where you end up”

Menella and her colleagues concluded that the greater the variety of foods you eat during pregnancy, the more open to a wide range of flavours your child will be.

An Australian study described in the New Phoenix Times, found that Continue reading

Here comes the helicopter!

girlwithfishI have spent a long time noticing and reflecting on the different ways parents try to make their children eat. In my book, I split these into several broad categories:




  • Cajoling – this is where we gently persuade, often involving comedy trains and aeroplanes….
  • Incentivising – you know the one; if you eat your beans you can have a star on your chart / a sticker / your pudding…
  • Pleading – “just one more bite… for mummy?”
  • The authoritarian approach –  “eat it because I say so”
  • Reasoning – often invoking the god of nutrition; eat it because “you need vitamins” / “it will make you big and strong”
  • Comparing – this is where we use siblings or friends to try to get a child to try something ” Look – Jack LOVES his fish”
  • Tempting -extolling the virtues of whatever it is we want them to taste, in the hope that they will be unable to resist

All of the above involve giving your child attention for not eating or being negative about food, and all of them are therefore experienced by your child as a kind of ‘pay-off’. Continue reading

My interview with Dina Rose

American sociologist, parent educator and feeding expert, Dina Rose PhD is the author of the fantastic ‘It’s Not About the Broccoli’.


I reviewed her book back in January and loved her approach. Like me, Dina helps parents understand that when it comes to feeding your kids, it’s more important to help them develop a positive relationship with food than to simply focus on getting as much healthy food down them as possible. Here’s how Dina answered my questions:

1.Can you tell my readers a bit about your journey into the world of picky eating? What made you decide to get involved in this field?

My mother died of obesity-related illnesses when I was pregnant with my daughter, over 13 years ago. She was only 65 years old. When my daughter was born, I was consumed with answering the question, “How do you teach kids to eat right?” Continue reading

Second helping time…

IMG_4529I love it when readers get in touch with their questions about picky eating. It’s funny how the same things come up again and again… It might feel like you are alone, but believe me, you’re not.  Despite unique situations and cultural differences, parents thousands of miles apart are going through the same things. When I got the following email from Sheila and Lisa about their two sons (aged 8 and 10)  and then a client asked me the same question the very next day, I felt it deserved a blog post. Here’s  part of what Sheila and Lisa wrote *

Hello, Ms. Cormack,

My partner and I read your book and loved it. TONIGHT we implemented the new system and we were thrilled with how well it worked. Our two boys, ages 8 and 10, certainly grumbled, and the youngest really pushed hard because he didn’t want to eat the corn on his plate. We held firm ……………….

……..As it turned out, he finally ate his corn and enjoyed some snicker noodle cookies for dessert. My partner and I are at an impasse on how to handle second helpings. She thinks we should let them have second helpings of their favorite items if they have at least tasted the item that they don’t want, say, maybe, three bites. I say no. We didn’t remember this being addressed in your book. Could you weigh in?
Lisa and Sheila

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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