Great Expectations

Are you weighing family meal times down with unrealistic expectation?

The more families I join with to create happier and more peaceful feeding relationships, the more I realise how unrealistic expectations can derail well-meaning and loving parents. 

Here are 5 common “great” expectations about feeding kids that you can feel free to calmly let go of:

  1. If my child doesn’t eat fruit and vegetables every day I’m a bad parent
    Child nutrition recommendations are important and useful, but they’re based on averages. Our role as parents is to ensure that children are OFFERED a variety of foods each day to choose from, to provide them regular opportunities to eat and a relaxed and happy space to eat.  It’s always a child’s job to decide how much to eat and, indeed, whether to eat. 
  1. Arrgghh! My child is still using his fingers to eat!
    Learning to use utensils is a skill that takes many years to master.
    Spoons – Give to hold at around 6 months.  Proficient at spoon feeding themselves by age 2.
    Forks – Start around 18 months -2 years.  Mastered by age 4.
    Knives – Practise with kid-safe knife to cut food and help with food preparation at age 4. Sharper knives around 5-6 years of age as your child’s skill level improves.
  1. Kids shouldn’t play with their food
    Kids learn an enormous amount about food using their sense of touch. The value of allowing children to explore food using their fingers, hands (and sometimes their whole body) cannot be underestimated.  Mess is good!
  1. My child should be able to taste a new food without having a melt-down
    If a melt-down is occurring about a new food on your child’s plate, expecting them to eat it is probably going to be an unrealistic expectation! Asking, prompting or coercing a child to taste a new food is often a sure-fire way to halt their learning. Instead, model how to explore new food using sight, hearing, smell or touch. Kids who are fearful or resistant to trying new foods do best when they are in the driver’s seat of their own food exploration in a safe and pressure-free environment.  Taste is often the very last step to learning to like a new food.
  1. Kids should eat all their dinner
    Your child is the only person who fully experiences their own sense of hunger and fullness, and therefore must be in control of deciding how much and indeed, whether to eat.  That said, kids DO make mistakes, sometimes eating too much or too little. Regular meal and snack times give them regular opportunities to practice eating the right amount for them. Making a child finish their plate or take “just one more bite” shows them that you don’t trust their appetite and they then learn not to trust it either. It potentially teaches them to ignore their body signs of hunger and fullness and at the extreme can lead to a poor relationship with food and disordered eating.

Parenting help appears everywhere. Much of it is useful, most of it isn’t and often it simply confuses and divides us. If you want clear, practical, evidence-based, no-nonsense nutrition support for your family, parent group, child care service or school then we’d love to hear from you.

Eat happy!


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Introducing the Brisbane Dietitian, Nutritionist and mum who is passionate about kids learning to love good food from birth and beyond. Deb is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian & Accredited Nutritionist, recognised by the Dietitians Association of Australia and is an accredited practitioner of the Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) Approach to Feeding for fussy eaters and problem feeders. “Your family can start having happy mealtimes by losing the guilt, ditching the battles and eating happy!” Deb Blakley, Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Director I believe in the right of every person to EAT HAPPY! I believe that every child is capable of growing up to be a competent and confident eater no matter what the nutrition challenge is I delight in helping families put the joy back into eating together Deb’s passion for kids learning to “dig” food was sparked by her daughter, who provides a constant source of action learning and on the job training. Her nutrition career started more than 18 years ago after graduating from Queensland University of Technology with a Graduate Diploma in Nutrition and Dietetics. Deb is committed to ongoing professional development in the area of child and infant feeding and attends workshops and conferences each year to improve her skills in this area. Deb followed her heart to create Kids Dig Food in 2012 after many years as a hospital-based clinical dietitian, community dietitian and community nutritionist. She has led initiatives as diverse as breastfeeding promotion, feeding practices in early childhood education settings and food security. In these roles she saw first-hand the difference that JOY makes to feeding and eating. Let Deb help you put the joy back into feeding your family today.

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