July 13, 2010

That Food Thing Again, Part II

{Hop on over here to read part I and get all caught up!}

I'll start off by saying that this post does not contain a top-secret formula for creating the perfect family mealtime atmosphere. I wish it did. What it does contain is a philosophy that I recently learned about, and have had the chance to put into practice for about a month. We're still working out the kinks, but I am pleased so far. So, here goes...

Clearly at my wits end, I had sunk down from my food-strike platform and resumed the daily grind- still having no clear plan, no real solutions in mind. My husband was angry, my kids were hungry, and we were all sick of eating granola bars for dinner.

Not too many days later, I received an email from Debbie stating that there as a training opportunity she wanted us to attend through the KPATA, and she shared that it was about childhood nutrition, something I feel passionate about. I was excited.

As it turns out, the seminar was entitled "The Feeding Relationship, An Introduction to the Possibilities" and presented by Pam Estes and Katya Rowell of the Ellyn Satter Institute. I felt like I had just experienced a small miracle, sitting there ready to sponge any and all information presented to me.

The concept is ridiculously simple. Ellyn Satter teaches on the basis of what she calls The Division of Responsibility in Feeding (DOR). In simplified terms, this is how it breaks down:

At mealtimes and snack times, parents are responsible for the what, the when, and the where. Children are responsible for the whether and the how much.

Period.

Again, we as parents are responsible for deciding what foods will be offered, when meals and snacks will be offered, and where these meals and snacks will take place. Our children are then responsible for deciding whether or not to eat these foods, and if so, the quantity.

A vital component to this philosophy is the "family meal", which in its simplest form can be described as a consistent, reliable, and predictable meal & snack schedule at the family table {whenever possible}.

They way this pans out in my brain is this- you have to beat 'em to it. You cannot wait for your kids to be hungry and begging for a snack. It goes against the DOR (the when) when your children ask you for a snack. Let me demonstrate why this becomes important...

In the past, Sassy would refuse to eat at meal time and beg me for a snack five minutes later. Often, I would give in, worried that she would waste away to nothing. Now, it looks a little something like this:

Sassy: I don't like pork chops and veggies. I'm not going to eat this.
Me: You may eat as much or as little as you'd like. Just remember, this is what is for dinner and there will be no opportunities to eat again until it is snack time.

Doesn't that just sound amazingly powerful? And guess what? It was spoken in a calm, even tone. I promise.

Now, with a bit of persistence on your part, this truly does begin to work in time. After days of realizing that there really would be no snacks until "snack time" some hours later, it comes at no surprise that Sassy began to make sure she ate something at meal time.

Which brings me to my next point. You should always try to offer a few options that you know your kids like. That's not to say you have to serve a platter of PB&J's with every dinner. It's been a simple shift, but one I am quite comfortable with at this time. This is an example of what our dinner table looks like:

Instead of pre-serving the food on their plates, we eat family style (empty plates and bowls/platters of everything on the table). The girls choose what they want on their plates. Before, a dinner may have consisted of grilled pork chops, steamed broccoli, and rice. These are things that are healthy and enjoyable for us adults, but all things that Sassy will not typically eat, and I know that. Now this dinner may look something like grilled pork chops, steamed broccoli, rice, yogurt with berries, and whole grain bread and butter.

I did not restructure the entire meal. What I did do is ensure there would be options that Sassy would like. It takes time to accept the terms of a philosophy such as this, but here's what it boils down to: If Sassy walks away from dinner with a belly full of yogurt with fresh berries and whole grain bread and butter, that's OK.


This post is growing lengthy, and I feel like I am not doing justice to the feeding philosophy. There is a lot more I would like to share. So, for now, let me implore you to think about it. Hop around on the Ellyn Satter website and learn some more. This is also a wonderful book that goes into much more depth. Throw any possible pitfalls or skepticism into the comments- I will try to address those as I work at sharing some more specifics and challenges in Part III.

8 sweet tweets:

**** said...

Thanks for sharing your struggles...and accomplishments! I love the idea of giving the children control in this situation. Hang in there; sounds like things are getting better at mealtime!

Rachel

Sarah said...

We have always had a very structured mealtime ritual, but never a snacktime ritual. I have said a million times that we need to have a designated snacktime, but maybe now I'll finally do it! Right now snacktime is whenever Chubs yells "cracker!!!"

Alyssa said...

Thanks for posting all this Heather, this is helpful. T is not a horrible eater but we really struggle with L. I like the idea of offering a little more or additional healthy options to give them choices you can live with. My question is, will my daughter ever eat a porkchop if I don't force her to take some bites? Is that okay?

Monica said...

Interesting. I will keep reading the furture posts. I am just wasting food by dishing up the plates myself. Also, I pile the dinner table with fruit, and that is usually all my kids eat.

rduxler said...

I learned about this philosophy at a failure to thrive workshop I attended a few months ago. Made me realize just how much I let the kids snack throughout the day. I, like you, started following a snack and meal schedule and its worked out really well for us. Addy still doesn't finish her plate or anything and she rarely touches a vegetable if she doesn't have to, but its progress. I had started teaching it to my families who were having meal time struggles and I'll be curious to get their reports when I return to work. Definitely keep us posted on your progress...

Bethany said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, I'll be looking forward to the third post. I am with Alyssa on this and worry that if I never make my kids eat spinach if they'd ever try it on their own. But meal time can be a struggle at our house and I don't like that, so I'm interested to hear more.

rduxler said...

I think some times parents (with the best of intentions in mind), make too much of a big deal out of their children trying foods that we feel they should eat. The problem is, the more you push it, the more they fight it. I've found that just casually offering foods to my kids is the best way to get them to try something. It may take 10-20 times of putting it on their plate, but about half the time they will eventually get curious enough and taste it. Do they always like it? Of course not... do we as adults always like everything we try, even if its healthy for us? Like Heather said, its not about meal time COMPLETELY revolving around their finicky tastes, but if you do know there are certain foods that your kiddos will eat, then it totally doesn't hurt to offer those along with other choices. I think you'll be surprised just how much kids are willing to try once meal time becomes less of a power struggle, and more of an enjoyable time together as a family...

Mrs. D said...

This is great Heather! Thank you for sharing! I've never pushed food on my kids and I always feel like they are starving. I guess I will try to add a couple of things to dinner that I know they will eat. I do generally offer a fruit and they always eat that. Never thought about a snack schedule, will have to work on that as well. Good ideas!!