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Food Fights: Bring ‘Peas & Harmony’ to the Family Table

Posted Apr 20 2012 11:00am

As a dietitian I’m obviously interested in all things food and eating. As a mom , I’m even more interesting in the eating and feeding habits of kids. Introducing kids to food is such a unique opportunity- they’re a completely blank slate just waiting for your input. There are no bad habits to break; just good ones to form. Kids have an amazing ability to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are satisfied. As adults, most of us have so many other associations with food that we forget those skills sometimes, and learning not to push them on to your children is a big deal.

food fights book feeding kids

Although I’m looking forward to introducing KB to solid food when the time comes, I don’t know a ton about feeding kids and toddlers. I was recently sent the book Food Fights from . It’s written by two moms who are also health professionals, providing a good perspective from both sides.

The book provides a good introduction to all things kids and food, from breastfeeding, starting solids, teaching kids healthy habits, and appropriate weight gain, etc. I most appreciated the emphasis on being a good role model for your children and not teaching them to use food as a reward {i.e. you can have ice cream if you eat your broccoli}.

childhood obesity

The book is written in an easy to read and light-hearted fashion, with important tips and facts highlighted so you don’t miss them. Each issue surrounding eating is given a rating as to how much of a “fight” you should put up, or whether it’s not such a big deal. Parenting is all about prioritizing.

picking your battles toddler feeding

Here’s an excerpt from the book from a chapter about being a healthy role model and instilling good habits: {reprinted with permission}

Table-Time Tradeoffs: In the Name of Healthy Eating

As ironic as it may sound when you stop to think about it, perhaps the
most common way in which parents use food as a reward is to encourage
children to eat more and/or “better” foods. You hear it all the time—
the old “if you eat your ______ (you fill in the blank), then you can
have _____ (again, you fill in the blank)” technique. While your child
may eat what you want her to and end up with dessert to show for it, in
the long run you are likely to end up getting your just desserts as well.
We recognize that this tried-and-true technique may seem to work well
at first, and we’re very aware of the fact that practically everyone does
it. But we suggest you proceed with caution because it runs the serious
risk of backfiring for several fundamental reasons.

Things Can Quickly Go From Bad to Worse.From a child’s perspective,
if you have to bribe them to eat something, then it can’t possibly
be good. If a child is indifferent to squash, making a big deal out of
her eating it and bribing her to do so is, in fact, likely to foster a much
more active dislike. Studies show that bribing children to eat certain
foods causes them to resist eating those foods even more than if they
had just been left alone.

The Tables Can Be Turned. Part of never letting your children see
you sweat (see “Strategy #3: Never Let Them See You Sweat” on
page 11) is not letting
them know just how much parental self-worth
you have riding
on each morsel. Let’s face it—at its core, offering
children edible incentives is really a you have riding
on each morsel. Let’s face it—at its core, offering
children edible incentives is really a way of manipulating them to do
what you want. If, however, your child becomes aware of just how
invested you are in what she eats—and children are very good at figuring
this out—then look out! Kids who are “paid” to eat can become
quite skilled at learning to turn it around to their advantage and
either eat or refuse to do so as a way to get what they want. Once your
child catches on, you may well be the one left with pie on your face.

Elevating the Status of Forbidden Foods. When you promise your
child a scoop of ice cream in return for taking a bite of her dinner,
what you perceive as your accomplishment stands to be quite different
from what your child takes away from the meal and the deal.
Instead of Instead of developing a newfound appreciation for the healthy foods
you’ve managed to get her to eat, your child’s sole focus is going to
be on the sweets she’s earned in return. In fact, you’ll probably end
up elevating the status of whatever goody you’ve offered as a bonus—
making it more desirable than ever.

Learning to Follow Your Lead.If your child isn’t hungry but really
wants whatever tantalizing food lies at the end of the meal, she may
wind up eating more than she would otherwise. In this instance, all
you stand to teach her is to ignore her own internal cues and follow
yours. This clearly contradicts the recommendation only to eat for
hunger’s sake, since overriding internal (healthy) controls is a key
and concerning dynamic on the road to overweight and obesity.

For more information about Food Fights, please visit , the official American Academy of Pediatrics web site for parents.


Interested in reading Food Fights? Leave a comment below about your experiences, concerns, or thoughts about kids and food for a chance to win your own copy of the book!


Psst… I’m featured on the Women’s Day Dinner Diary blog today sharing one of my all time favorite recipes!

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