You Serve, They Choose

One day when I was a resident in Pediatrics I was assigned to work in the gastroenterology clinic. There were not many children to be seen that day.  As I waited for a small person with a stomach issue to arrive I picked a book off the shelf and started reading. It was small, had a friendly cover and looked approachable. Indeed, it was a gem. I passed my time that morning reading and the words I soaked up then have stuck with me as I have mothered my three and as I have talked with scores of parents through the years.

The words from this book by childhood nutrition guru Ellyn Satter form the basis of Soundbite #2.

There is an important division of labor in feeding children. Their adults should choose what food they are served. The children choose what to eat and how much. At times parents find it very hard to trust in nature: children are built for success, if trusted they will eat the right amount of food for their bodies. Only the child knows when she is hungry.

Your child will get hungry, eat, get filled up, and stop eating (even in the middle of a bowl of ice cream). Whether your child needs a lot or a little, she instinctively eats as much as she needs. If you follow the division of responsibility with feeding she will automatically eat the right amount of food to grow and be as active as is right for her.

However, if we as parents interfere with this natural rhythm we risk raising children who are either too heavy or too thin for what nature intended. Imagine how confusing it may be to a young child when on one hand her brain knows they are not hungry but their parent is telling them to eat more! Repeat this enough times and the child no longer listens to her body but eats beyond hunger and fills with unneeded calories.

So, fill her plate with good choices. You are obviously not offering soda, chips and sugary cereal all day long. Instead lay out fruits, veggies, cheese, yogurt, milk and whole grains. Then sit back, relax, and trust your very smart child. ©

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