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Monday, October 10, 2011

Putting On the Pressure (or Not)

Jake's favorite Phillie is Ryan Howard.  Now, I'm not even going to get into the fact the Phillies are out of the playoffs.  In fact, my writing those words doesn't really convince me that it's actually true.  Give me a couple of months.

Anyway, he loves Ryan Howard.  Like Howard, Jake is a left-handed hitter (usually has a little better eye than the slugger).  And they're both streaky at the plate--Howard at home plate, Jake at the dinner plate.

Jake ate a whole lobster for the first time this year,
overcoming some previous trepidation about it.

There will be days that Jake will eat like he's never eaten before.  He'll shovel down everything in front of him.  Then, he'll change to a streak where he won't eat much at all.  Early on, MB & I were a little worried that he wasn't eating as much as he should be.  We didn't want to pressure him, but we wanted to make sure that he was getting the nutrients that he should have been getting.  His doctor assured us that children self-regulate how much food they need to get by.  There's no use in pressuring a child when they're not eating because chances are, they're simply not hungry.

A recent study from the UK (and discussed in an My Health News Daily article) backs up what the doctor told us. 

Basically, pressuring a child to eat when they aren't hungry can have a detrimental effect on how the child sees eating as a whole.  Often the result is a child who is picky and views mealtime as a battleground.  The study suggests that parents shouldn't worry about when a child won't eat--they'll eat when they are hungry.  Forcing the issue or substituting less healthy options (ones that the child will eat hungry or not) are not good ideas.

Is there any time that some gentle pressure is acceptable?  Most experts say that when you're working on trying to get a kid to taste something new, a little pressure isn't a bad idea.  Even a little incentive works in getting a kid to take the risk of trying something new.  I know in Jake's case, he simply has to be in the right mood.  Most of the time, he's very open to at least trying something, but there are times when nothing will get him to put his lips to that food. 

Bottom line to me is that all kids are different.  You can try strategies that seem to work in general, but only you know what might work for your child the best.  Just be sure to be an example to them--don't make them eat things that you won't eat.  And expose kids to "real" food--take them to farmers' markets, explain where foods come from, walk them around the produce aisle in the supermarket. 

Check out a couple previous posts about this subject: "Kids These Days" & "Kids & Food".

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