It’s getting kids to eat what parents serve that causes so many problems.

Sign up for free parenting support!


Search

The Podcast

Listen Now!


DINA ROSE, PhD is a sociologist, parent educator and feeding expert empowering parents to raise kids who eat right.

Schedule a 30 minute call today Bring Dina to your community Schedule a Professional Development Seminar

Links

Dinner Together Building Healthy Families One Meal at a Time.

Food Politics Marion Nestle's intelligent take on the politics of food and nutrition.

Fooducate Like Having a Dietician on Speed dial.

Hoboken Family Alliance A terrific resource for people living in the great city of Hoboken, NJ.

The Lunch Tray Everything you need to know about improving school lunches.

Parent Hacks Forehead-Smackingly Smart Tips

Raise Healthy Eaters One of the best blogs (other than my own) for learning to raise healthy eaters.

Real Mom Nutrition Tales from the Trenches. Advice for the Real World. From a mom-nutritionist who knows!

Stay and Play The best indoor playspace on the East Coast. Oh yeah, and it happens to be owned by my brother.

weelicious Great Recipes for Kids 

Entries in Hunger (24)

Friday
May012015

Some Thoughts on the Hunger-Induced Toddler Meltown

I'm reluctant to wade into the topic of the toddler meltown because it's tough and sensitive. Nonetheless, this is one area that can mess up your food-parenting strategy.

Here's a radical thought: there's no way to know if your child's hunger is actually causing the meltdown. Consider the following scenarios: 

  • You want to serve more fruits and vegetables for snack but the time you tried, your child refused and then had a hunger-induced meltdown. So now you stick to crackers because it's the safer bet.
  • You think the Rotation Rule is a good idea, but when you gave your child a choice between a turkey sandwich and a ham sandwich, she said she wanted peanut butter. You tried to stick to your guns (following my advice/script)—"You can have peanut butter tomorrow but today your choice is turkey or ham."—but then your daughter refused to eat lunch and all afternoon she was a mess.
  • You're not fond of the before-bed snack, but when you don't give your son a little something, he cries and then wakes up throughout the night. It's not worth the fight.

I could go on, but you get my point. The hunger-induced meltdown gets in the way of your best plans...all the time!

You can connect the dots (hunger-->no eating-->meltdown) but there's no way to know whether the meltdown is actually caused by your child's hunger since you can't get inside your child's tummy.

Possibilitiy A: Your child is so hungry he can't think straight. Hence the meltdown.

Possibility B: Your child is hungry, but wants something different to eat, and she knows from past experiences that behaving badly gets her what she wants.

Possibility C: Your child is not hungry but wants to eat and he knows that behaving badly gets you to produce snacks.

Possibility D: Your child is not hungry but is just behaving badly. When you produce the snacks you distract her from the tantrum and calm is restored.

This is just one of the things that makes parenting kids around food soooo difficult.

Since you can't know whether you're dealing with Possibility A, B, C, or D, the only solution is structure. And a couple of lessons.

Structure, i.e. rules that lay the foundation for what and when food is eating, is necessary because it makes food and eating predictable for your kids. 

And here's one last radical thought: One important lesson even small children can (and need to learn) is how to soothe themselves in the face of the hunger meltdown.

After all, most young children can't really eat when they're upset anyway. 

There's no reason not to feed the child who has the one-off hunger-induced meltdown, but doing it on a regular basis sets up the wrong habits, both for now and for a lifetime of healthy eating.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~ 

Tuesday
Oct212014

Hunger vs Appetite

We have an almost-pathological fear of kids being hungry in this country.

I'm not talking about real hunger. I'm talking about the kind of hunger that people naturally develop in between meals. You know, the old grumbling-in-the-tummy kind of hunger.

So here's the question: "Should I feed my toddler on demand or on a schedule?"

The answer is a hybrid. Feed your child on a flexible schedule that imposes some structure but which is responsive to your child's hunger.

For many parents, helping their children avoid hunger seems like a rational strategy. 

  • Hungry children are prone to meltdowns (and, for some reason, this usually happens when in public)
  • Hungry children don't do well in school
  • Hungry children are sometimes harder to feed

But avoiding hunger is the wrong habit to teach children.

Sometimes a little hunger goes a long way. Read The Upside of Hunger to find out why. Here's one reason:

Toddlers need to learn to connect the feeling (pangs in their tummies) with the problem (hunger) and the solution (eating).  If they never feel hungry, they’ll never learn this connection. 

Help your children build an appetite: Implement the Eating Zones Rule

Eating Zones are regular blocks of time that you create—one for each daily meal and snack. On any given day you can choose one time during each Eating Zone when you will offer something to eat.

Eating Zones help you avoid constant on-demand grazing, but they do not snap you into a rigid schedule.

  • Look at your typical day to see when you normally provide meals and snacks.
  • Account for variables, such as naps, outings, school, or your work schedule.
  • Evaluate when your child is usually hungry, when she is too tired, too hungry, or too distracted to eat. 
  • Use this information to create blocks of time each day when you can serve a meal or a snack.

The importance of Eating Zones is that they designate some times as eating times and other times as NO-EATING times.

You create opportunities for eating, but let your children choose whether and how much to eat.

And if your child wants to eat during a no-eating zone, respond compassionately, but help her wait. And remember...

  • You can always move the next Eating Zone up so the wait isn't too long
  • The wait is where the learning happens

The structure of Eating Zones:

  1. Creates a predictable parenting dynamic. Read You Can't Make Me Eat It! to find out why predictability is important.
  2. Constructively shares control with your child. Read The Hunger Dilemma.
  3. Prevents unnecessary snacking. Read What to Do About Snacks

In the perfect world, children would be taught to eat when (and only when) they were hungry. That's not the world we live in.

But in the world we live in, children are usually required to eat at meal times—regardless of how much or how often they've eaten throughout the day. That is a lesson in overeating.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Thursday
Jul172014

How Parents Teach Kids to Lie About Hunger

Should you let your kids stop eating even if you suspect they're not quite full?

Or let them eat if you know they're not hungry?

The surprising answer is yes.

Otherwise, kids just learn to lie.

In most families, there is only one legitimate reason to eat: hunger.

That means if kids want to eat something they have to say they’re hungry, even if they’re not. “That cake looks good; I’m hungry.”

It also means that if they don’t want to eat something kids often have to say they’re not hungry, even if they are. “Those peas look gross; I’m not hungry.” (Sometimes kids also say, “I don’t like it,” to get out of eating.)

I don’t really think of this as lying, per se. Rather, children are working with the tools we give them. And, I don't think parents do this intentionally.

A story to illustrate the problem:

One day I was at a birthday lunch for a young child. Among the celebrants was a 5 year old girl. The little girl had a lovely lunch and when she was full she stopped eating. "I'm full," she announced.

So far so good.

About 30 minutes later, when the birthday cake came out: "Yum. I'm starving!"

I know there are parents out there who will say that it's possible this girl was hungry. After all, a half-hour had passed! I don't buy it. 

Teach your kids to become fluent in the "language" of hunger—no matter how young they are.

Eating is a complicated business because people eat for all sorts of reasons and kids need to know this.

For instance, in addition to Tummy Hunger, people often eat because of the following reasons: 

  • Taste Hunger; something looks good. When this happens, it’s best to have a small portion, just a taste.
  • Practical Hunger, they need to eat for practical reasons such as when there won’t be time for lunch later. In this case, you might have to have a few bites even if you aren’t hungry.
  • Emotional Hunger, the times we eat to quench uncomfortable feelings. These situations are best responded to with a hug, or other comforting measure.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~


Source: Tribole, E. and E. Resch, 2003. Intuitive Eating: a Revolutionary Program That Works., Vol. 2nd Edition. New York: St. Martin's Press.