Fixing and Avoiding Feeding Bloopers

September 25, 2012 in Fitness, Foodland, General, Health Claims, Nutrition, Psychology of Food by Joyce Bunderson

Do you know what makes my day – defines it as great? One is discovering a new resource that makes uncommon good sense in guiding parents on how to bring about self-motivated healtthy eating by their children. “Eat Your Vegetables” and other mistakes parents make" is the best book I’ve read that helps parents manage the food warfare struggles that sometimes confront well-meaning parents, while trying to raise a healthy normal weight child.

Natalie Digate Muth, a mother with MD, MPH, and RD degrees, wrote the book. She divided it into four categories of “mistakes.”

  1. The first category is The Inherited Mistakes. Some examples of this category are:
    1. Insisting, “Eat Your Vegetables!” This one makes me feel good, because I never say this.  Instead, I often say to grandchildren; “Don’t worry, your taste buds will grow up; you’ll be so surprised one day, you’ll discover (the avoided food) is yummy.”
    2. Using food as a reward. I really like the psychological explanations for how this tactic can backfire, badly.
    3. Requiring Membership in the “Clean Plate Club.” When I was a girl, my parents told of the starving children in China. I ate all my food. When I told my children about the starving children in Ethiopia, my children said that I should send it to them.
  2. The second category is The Underrated Mistakes.
    1. Forbidding Potato Chips and Ice cream, and other foods considered ‘junk.’
    2. Dismissing “Packaging” – not realizing the power of marketing and packaging.
    3. Failing to Live it – Muth says that “living it” is the most challenging and most powerful change for parents to make to support a lifetime of healthy eating and regular physical activity.
  3. The third category is The Everyday Mistakes
    1. Catering to Picky Eaters – she gives some really practical, doable, advice on how to manage these challenging eaters.
    2. Enabling the Couch Potato – how to have fun making this change.
  4. The fourth category is The Overlooked Mistakes
    1. Remaining Speechless at Doctor’s Visits – I personally believe that this book should be required reading for pediatricians.
    2. Mishandling Grandparent Sabotage – I’m sure that I’ve made plenty of mistakes as a grandparent, but the children have never reprimanded me – whew!
    3. Missed opportunities – about how to make learning about healthy nutrition and physical activity fun and educational.

One of the nice things is that Muth explains the psychology behind her recommendations. Some people may not enjoy that much detail; but she makes it quite interesting and accessible. If you have to, to get to the details of what to do, my advice is to just skip over the psychological theory sections.

Another thing that is really helpful for busy parents is that Muth gives specific advice at the end of each chapter, broken down for Infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school age children.

There are lots of recipes for those who draw a blank when trying to decide where to start. One of the things that I did right, all those decades ago, was that I involved the children with food. When they were young, I would let them help me fill many bowls with all kinds of ingredients. Then they would make their own ‘recipes’ on their plates. Because they wanted a variety of colors and textures, they learned to eat the variety. Involving the children in choosing and preparing meals, works like magic. I like the way Muth guides the reader to give the child a sense of decision making from foods that were previously chosen by the parent.

I believe that this book will be useful for both parents starting with a clean slate (with new babies – who have not experienced our mistakes yet) and also for those of us who have made mistakes and are dealing with the results. I really like her strategies and counterstrategies.

Lastly, I think that you may even enjoy reading this book if you are a grandparent like me. Hey, why not make ourselves part of the solution and not be considered a sabotaging grandparent. In addition, it may be helpful, in just understanding our own adult eating behaviors – some of them may carry over from our own childhood attitudes. If we can remember why we like and possibly misuse certain ‘comfort foods;’ or have difficulties with healthy foods, that knowledge may reduce the power those foods hold over us today.

I don’t think I can say this book is common sense; many common, familiar parental reactions are simply wrong. But I can say that this book gives direct, easy to follow and realistic advice. It just makes my day, to be able to so heartily recommend this book. I know it will “make the day” – a lot of better days – for many struggling parents.