Pressure Your Children To Eat? Oh No!
As adults, we sometimes enter situations where we have pressure to eat or drink. For example, you’re attending a work function where you are required to wine-and-dine your clients. If you don’t want to drink secondary to the caloric intake, you may feel pressure to have a glass in order to accommodate the social cues. This idea can also fall into play when we are at group events and everyone is eating the dessert. You may not want to consume it, but don’t want to be rude. So what do you do?
Many of these “pressures” are self-made and social pressures. We can choose to be vocal and state that we don’t want the drink or food item. Or we can just accept it and take 1 sip or 1 bite to be polite. Whatever we choose to do, sometimes the choice is difficult and other times no one really notices if we aren’t drinking or eating.
Now think of our children. We feed them certain foods, such as vegetables and whole grains, which we know are good for them. However, they do not want to eat those foods. Do we pressure them to eat knowing that the food is good for them? We know that these foods are healthy and necessary for their growth. Multiple studies state that the more we pressure our children to eat, the more resistance they tend to portray. So what do we do with our picky eaters?
Here are some tips:
- Try gentle encouragement when trying to get a child to eat a specific food item. Ask for 2 bites and then let the child go.
- Offer the child 2 choices. Example: Do you want broccoli or carrots tonight? Serve the child the chosen food. Empowering the child with choice can encourage healthy eating and allow the child to not feel pressure to eat one item only.
- Do not pressure the child to have a clean plate. Children are very in-tune with their hunger levels. The more we force them to eat their entire plate, the less in-tune the child becomes. Allowing the child to stop eating when feeling full is important. By feeding the child every 2-4 hours (depending on age), the child will always have an opportunity to eat, so the parent does not have to worry about the child going hungry.
Remember, as adults, we do not care for pressure to eat, so we shouldn’t pressure our children to eat, either. We can always make sure to have healthy food choices available for our family and friends. But let’s keep the pressure at bay.
By Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN
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