Today’s guest blogger is Kelly Rogers Victor who earned her Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia University and has taught at Columbia, NYU, University of Florida, and Oakland University. The mother of four, she is also completing certification as a Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Her blog, KALEandKANT.com reflects philosophically on food, family, culture, wellness, and the examined life.
Most people struggle with feeding their children properly. In fact, it’s become one of the most difficult tasks of modern-day parenting. Our pervasive junk food, eat-around-the-clock culture sabotages attempts to instill moderation and appreciation for whole food—or, to paraphrase Michael Pollan, for food that comes from a plant, not food that was made in a plant. I’m always on the hunt for great online resources to share on this topic, and today I bring you Dina Rose of It’s Not About Nutrition.
Dr. Rose is a sociologist who specializes in feeding kids. It’s refreshing that she’s not a certified nutritionist because although she’s well versed in nutrition, her focus is on the behaviors involved in feeding and eating. In other words, it’s not just about presenting kids with wholesome snacks or a well-balanced dinner plate. It’s equally about the psychology of eating. Here are a few of her best ideas for “translating nutrition into behavior.” Several of these are applicable to us adults, by the way.
1. “Taste preferences are more nurture than nature.” This is right on. Human babies are not designed to subsist on chicken nuggets (although food chemists have engineered them with the perfect trifecta of fat, oil, and sugar so as to be nearly irresistible). Children whose parents give up on feeding them healthy food are missing the critical truth that palate development is a process. It can take fifteen or more exposures for a kid to start enjoying a particular food.
2. “Never ask children to eat new foods. Ask them to taste a pea-sized sample and describe what they’ve tasted instead.” This complements the repeated-offer strategy. Maybe the first ten times you have them sample the broccoli, they’ll react negatively, but “sampling” is a process that puts them more in control, and repetition promotes palate maturation.
3. “Stop pressuring your kids to eat and start serving smaller portions.” My own mother yells at me about this one. I sometimes will unwittingly serve what must seem like enormous portions of vegetables when I plate my kids’ dinners. I’m sure my subconscious is involved, and I know I’m striving to load them up on the healthiest foods when they’re home with me, but really it’s kind of sickening for the kid if you think about it! So dial it back, and if they take a spoonful of peas and nibble at just two, Rose says not to butt in: be satisfied with one “happy bite.” Just keep the healthy foods coming, and let the kids work through the rest.
4. “Clearly delineate eating and non-eating times,” and “It’s just as important to teach your kids why, when and how much to eat as it is to teach them what to eat.” Feeding kids who are bored or lonely, or on-demand between meals, creates bad eating patterns for adulthood.
5. “Improve the quality of your kids’ snacks. It will improve how your kids eat and it will change YOUR life.” Among other things, she notes that if your kids aren’t constantly snacking on junk, you will be less stressed about mealtime because it won’t be their only exposure to wholesome food, and they’ll stop begging for junk so often because you won’t be feeding the sugar, salt, and fat cravings that processed foods trigger.
This is only a small sampling of Rose’s ideas and insights—her website and blog are filled with information and resources for anyone involved in the feeding of children. I am grateful to have found her.
Thanks to Kelly for sharing this recommendation. I am also a big fan of Dina’s work and look forward to getting my hands on a copy of her new book soon! It’s Not About the Broccoli is available for order here.