Sarah Smith, APD, Bayside Dietetics
“Never feed him a lot.
Never more than a spot!
Or something may happen.
You never know what.”
Mr Carp gave this advice to a boy who bought Otto the fish from his pet shop. Out of compassion, the boy overfeeds Otto who then grows, and grows….and grows!
This advice to restrict the amount of food you give to an animal used to be applied to children too. It made some logical sense…if you give a child less food then they will eat less. “Never more than a spot!” However, in a similar way to diets not working for adults (surprise!), restricting a child’s intake does not work either. In fact, if you control how much a child eats, they are likely to end up overeating or undereating through adolescence and/or as an adult.
So what can you do?
Here are a few ideas that will actually support your child with their eating into adulthood.
- Trust them. Trust that they know how much to feed themselves. This ability is rarely lost, just hidden under stress or behavioural difficulties around food.
- Provide a predictable meal routine. This is so a child never has to overeat in case the next meal is delayed. They know plenty of food is coming and when to predict it.
- Sit down for all meals and snacks. Yep snacks too. Enjoy the food. Register that they are being eaten. Reduce external distractions such as television.
- Provide “naughty” or “forbidden” foods in a supportive context. For example, celebrate having a delicious piece of cake as a family sitting around the table, or include a snack size chocolate alongside the evening dinner meal. You are showing your child how these foods can be eaten in an enjoyable and moderate way.
- Role model how you want your child to eat. For example, if you want your child to eat more vegetables, show them how it’s done by eating more vegetables too.
While these tips are not radical, they do work to help build positive eating behaviour for your kids for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, moderation and consistency don’t make for a great nursery rhyme.
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