“Nutrition Happens”
Ending Dinner Time Battles

By Beverly Pressey

Dear Beverly,
It seems that every dinner ends in me having to punish my child for not eating.  I really don’t even want to have meals any more, what can I do?
My in-box is filled with letters from hundreds of parents that often find themselves in your situation.  Keep in mind that children are born with an intact instinct to survive, which includes eating foods that will healthfully sustain their bodies.  Unfortunately in our attempts to nourish our children, we become disciplinarians. This will simply not work.
In fact it could permanently damage your child's innate ability to regulate their own appetite, leading to life long eating and weight problems.  Studies show that punishing a child for not eating or using rewards or bribes leads can easily lead to a child who over or under eats as a teen or adult.  Therefore, creating a healthy eater is about helping a child to maintain an emotionally healthy attitude about food for a life time.  So how do you create healthy eater? 

  1. Offer a variety of healthy foods on a regular basis.
  2. Offer foods at least every 3 hours and for some children every 1 ½ hours.  This provides for food security, children know they will be fed at regular intervals.
  3. Let a child eat until they have decided they have had enough, no matter how much or little they eat.  Children’s eating likes, dislikes, and amounts consumed are erratic day-to- day, month-to-month and year-to-year.  If they don’t eat much on one day or one meal they will make up for it later.
  4. Respect a child’s decision to eat or not, but feel free to remind them that if they choose not to eat when food is served, no food will be available until the next snack of meal time.
  5. Do not allow anything but water between snack and meal times.  This gives the parent a break from being a 24 hours waiter and teaches the child to eat when food is offered. 
  6. When a fun food is being served (in a limited portion) always offer an unlimited amount of a healthy food with it so a child can eat until they decide they have had enough.
  7. Help children focus on how their body feels during a meal by not distracting the eating process with television, reading or intrusive music or radio programs.
  8. Do not impose rewards, bribes, or punishments for eating or not eating.  The natural consequences of hunger or satiety will teach our children.

child nutrition bookAbout the Author:
Beverly Pressey is a Registered Dietician with Master’s degrees in Education and Nutrition and specializes in working with caregivers of babies and children.  Beverly has worked with individuals, presented at conferences, consulted with childcare centers, taught continuing education and college classes, and presented at numerous parent groups.  As an experienced counselor, cook, teacher, speaker and a mother of 2, she has a realistic understanding of infant/child eating patterns plus the perspective of a busy parent.  Beverly lives in Seattle, Washington, find out more about her and her book at www.creatinghealthyeaters.com.

More articles by Beverly Pressey:
Healthy Eating is Not a Discipline Issue
Nutrition Happens
Eat Healthy, Even During the Holidays