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  • Writer's pictureLaura Mamerow

Let them eat cake, even with their dinner


Let’s talk about picky eating for a minute. I admit as a dietitian and a mom I previously (and by previously, I mean about 3 years ago when my youngest started eating solid foods) thought that picky eating was mainly brought about by parents giving into their children’s manipulation with the exception of their true dislikes. I really thought that every kid just ate whatever you gave them as this was my experience with my first son. After feeding my youngest son for about 3 years now I realize that picky eating is actually a thing. Of course I am to blame sometimes too, I definitely give in to snacks more than I should. However, there are some things I have learned along the way. I can’t even write, “I want a snack” without saying it in my son’s little voice in my head because we hear it all day long. If he asks for a snack around meal time, even if we are all not eating, I make him his meal and tell him I will put the snack he wants on his supper plate (he calls every meal supper). He usually whines about it for 30 seconds but when he realizes this is the only way he is getting his snack he is on board. When presented with his plate of food he almost always eats whatever else is on it. Most times he will join us all again when the meal I prepared is ready. Snacks aren’t his only meal killer as the kid also lives for dessert. I deal with dessert the same way. He doesn’t need to eat a certain amount to get dessert, I simply put it on his plate with the rest of his food and he eats the dessert with his meal. In my experience it gets him interested in the meal and not fixated on the dessert. Does he usually eat the dessert first? Yes, but honestly who cares. He eats his other food too and he is going to eat the dessert regardless. When we tell our children to eat a certain amount of food or we have to check their plate for our approval to move on with the day or be allowed to get a dessert it sends a message we don’t trust them trusting their bodies. This isn’t a message I choose to send to my kids. I do realize every parent has to chose what they are comfortable with and what they feel is best. I feel the kids are the experts on their body, and if we allow them, they will know how much to eat and facilitate a healthy relationship with food in the process. With that said, there are times that he will want another dessert after he eats the first one on his plate. My reaction to that is a simple comment such as, “You have other foods on your plate that you like too, why don’t you eat those and if you’re still hungry then you could get more dessert.” He will react by either being done eating or eat a bit more and ask for dessert again. And yes, he will get the second dessert. I feel it's okay, it doesn't happen often and isn't that what we do as adults? We save room for the desserts and eat what we are hungry for. For me it pretty much all boils down to Ellen Satter and her Satter method. This states that parents take leadership of what, when and where the kids eat and the kids decide if they are going to eat and how much. In my opinion, this method right here can avoid so many food fights parents have with their children and don’t we all want enjoyable meal times! So I say, let them eat cake…. along with their green beans that are warmed up 80 million times!

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