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  • 8 Ways To Lessen Mealtime Battles With Your Toddler: 'No Beverages Between Meals'

    A mom shares her strategy to ending power struggles with a picky eater.
    by Kaye De Guzman .
8 Ways To Lessen Mealtime Battles With Your Toddler: 'No Beverages Between Meals'
PHOTO BY iStock
  • When our son hit toddlerhood, he became choosier and more assertive of the kinds of food he wanted to eat for snacks and mealtimes. He would either ask for a different kind of food or would refuse to eat anything more and just leave the table.

    Every time he does not clear his plate, I would feel like he is not growing enough and so I would force him to eat more. I would feel bad whenever he starts shutting his mouth and not taking any more food. I would plead that he take one more bite. I would bribe him with sweets just to get him to eat. This resulted in frustration for both of us and my son started to have a negative relationship with food and eating.

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    Lessening power struggles with a picky eater

    Then, I discovered the Division of Responsibility Feeding coined by feeding expert Ellyn Satter, a registered dietician and family therapist. I found out that I was not alone and virtually every toddler, at some point, go through a picky eater phase.

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    The division of responsibility is basically a way of feeding your child with fewer mealtime battles. The parent is responsible for what food to serve, and when and where to serve it. The child’s responsibility is whether he will eat it or not, and how much he will eat.

    For it to work, you simply set the time and location for eating, and prepare a balanced snack or meal. Once you are done with your responsibility, let your child do his. Your job ends there. Then, simply allow your child to take the lead and follow his hunger and fullness cues. If he asks for seconds, give him some more. But for other times, he might not eat everything you serve. That is totally okay!

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    How to get a picky eater to eat

    The following are tips that I found effective in feeding and introducing new food to my son without too much struggle:

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    1. Allow your child to have a high chair — an eating space that is all his where he can eat, explore, and try different food.
    2. Set a schedule for snacks and meals. I usually give a 2 to 2.5 hours gap for meals and snacks.
    3. Offer at least 3 kinds of food from the different food groups. Always serve a “safe food”. Something you know your child will surely during meal times. This will ensure that he still eats something even if he chooses not to eat the rest of what you served. If he chose not to touch even his safe food, consider that maybe he is not hungry at all!
    4. If he asks for different food, not what you served, simply tell him that it’s not on the menu. He can have it some other time.
    5. No milk or beverages in-between snacks and meals except water. Also, no unnecessary snacking or grazing of food.
    6. Serve a variety of foods, even the ones he would never touch. Serve what your family eats, and model how they are eaten without expecting he would eat it. It is still exposure and he might try it one day!
    7. Teach words or gestures to indicate that he is finished eating.

    When I started implementing this method and gave my son more responsibility when it comes to eating, I had to surrender my control over mealtimes. I stopped constantly feeding him, thinking he should always feel full. I followed my schedule, and it allowed him to feel hunger, the best appetite stimulant!

    When I let go of pressuring him to eat healthy food, he became more open to trying new and various foods. I even changed what we are eating. I served more nutritious meals because I have to model how the foods are eaten. It took a lot of firmness and consistency but my son now definitely became a happier and better eater!

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