Feeding children is one of the greatest responsibilities. It’s also one of the most repetitive, challenging and mundane chores. Do you ever feel confused about feeding your child? What’s healthy? How much and how little of certain foods you should be giving?
Some parents cave under the pressure of the constantly changing and unattainable standard of perfect nutrition and slim bodies.
Some parents get caught up in these rules and unintentionally use restrictive feeding with their kids. The intentions are good –to give kids just the right foods, in the right amounts, so that they get every nutrient they could possibly need, in the right amounts, so that they are the right size and shape.
Restrictive feeding, although well intentioned, has a dark side. It involves controlling every little bite that goes into your child’s mouth. Closely watching portion sizes (think pre-portioned plates), purchasing diet, low-calorie, or fat-free foods, and limiting second helpings at the dinner table are all signs of restrictive feeding. Restrictive feeding is often done in the name of perfect eating or improving a child’s weight and health.
Research indicates that restrictive feeding isn’t working for kids and may be promoting an environment of overeating. It also links this practice to weight gain.
Parents’ perceptions of their child’s weight status are also connected to restrictive feeding behaviors. In other words, if you think your child is “big” or gaining too much weight, you are more likely to control every little bite they eat.
Like adults, kids want what they can’t, or don’t, have. It’s human nature. Unlike adults, kids have less control over their biological drive to eat. They are less likely to talk themselves out of eating or wanting something in particular to eat. This situation—wanting something to eat but being restricted from eating it– can trigger overeating.
Perhaps we need to begin paying more attention to how we feed our kids. Providing an abundant table of healthy food is both satisfying to the eye and to the tummy. Feeling hungry and being able to satisfy that hunger is more than a full belly–it’s emotional fullness too. Feeling emotionally and physically full is what it takes to stop a backlash of overeating in our children.