Picky Eaters, Family Meals, & Nutrition

Picky eaters…

are incredibly common. Nearly all kids go through food jags. ALL humans have food preferences. Navigating all of this around the dinner table, though, can feel frustrating and overwhelming. Even for experts.

“I felt confident going into parenting!” says Rebecca Toutant, a registered dietician who began her career helping children with autism and sensory issues expand their palate. “I thought my boys would be these really wonderful, adventurous eaters and we’d sit down at the dinner table and have such peaceful family meals.” That, she learned, “is just not how it works.”

Despite the fact that eating is a basic, natural human drive, “it takes a lot of effort and practice to really help children have a healthy relationship with food,” Rebecca says. She suggests letting go of a lot of our preconceived notions and focusing on developing “confident, competent eaters.”

Think of eating and nutrition as an experience. Food and meals include colors, textures, sensations, and emotions. Children are naturally “neo-phobic,” or hesitant to try new things, Rebecca says. That’s a protective instinct. So, our kids look to us to see how we’re interacting with and reacting to food — & many, many, MANY exposures to a food (as many as 10-20) for a child to accept it.

Rebecca recommends following Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding:

  • PARENTS are responsible for WHAT food is offered, WHERE food is offered, and WHEN Food is offered
  • CHILDREN are responsible for HOW MUCH (or whether) they eat

In this episode, Jen, Janet & Rebecca discuss:
  • What it means to have a healthy relationship with food
  • Identifying & deconstructing our “shoulds” regarding food and eating
  • Introducing new foods
  • Division of Responsibility in Feeding
  • Why you shouldn’t bribe your child to try new foods or clean their plate
  • Picky eating vs. problem feeding vs ARFID (avoidant restrictive food intake disorder)
  • When to seek professional assistance for eating challenges
  • Should you let your child eat a separate meal?
  • Helping kids decipher “moral” food messages (Spoiler: No food is “good” or “bad”)
  • Dinner at a dietician’s home
  • How Jen & Rebecca know each other ūüôā
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:

Nourishing Bits & Bites — Rebecca’s website (follow her on FB and Instagram too!)

Burnt Toast by Virginia Sole-Smith — newsletter mentioned at 34:31

Celiac Disease Cookbook for the Newly Diagnosed: Guidance and Recipes for an Easy Transition to the Gluten-Free Diet, by Rebecca Toutant (mentioned at 41:15)

Meal Prep Cookbook for Runners: Healthy Meals to Prepare, Grab and Go, by Rebecca Toutant (mentioned at 41:24)

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