Healthy Living in the North

A sigh of relief: trusting kids to eat enough

An adorable child, with food all over it's face, smiles into the camera and holds a peanut butter and jam sandwich.

Children of all ages have the ability to regulate their food intake. The division of responsibility in feeding trusts, respects, and protects this ability.

Many parents of young children worry that their kids don’t eat enough. As a dietitian and a mother of a young child, I totally get it. We want the best for our children; we want them to be healthy and to get the nutrition they need.

Mealtime struggles

Parents and caregivers often tell me about the strategies they use to try to get kids to eat. We keep them at the table, prompt them to take a few more bites, chase them with spoons (“airplane!”), praise them when they finish their plates, negotiate with them, and entice them with dessert. It’s a lot of work. Kids often resist these efforts, and parents get frustrated. And kids are frustrated too! It’s an exhausting experience for many families.

Is there a different way?

Fortunately, yes. Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility in feeding (DOR, for short) is the recommended approach to feeding children. This approach helps prevent and manage a lot of common feeding challenges. It’s based on trusting that children of all ages are capable of determining how much to eat to grow and be well.

Adults’ roles and kids’ roles

In short, the DOR outlines adults’ roles with feeding, and kids’ roles with eating.

Adults are responsible for deciding what foods to offer, and when and where to offer them. Ideally, they would provide a variety of foods over the course of the day, offered at regular meal and snack times, in ways that support eating together. Once adults have done these pieces, their job is done.

Then, it’s up to the kids – they decide how much to eat from the foods provided, or whether to eat at any meal or snack time. Adults don’t have to do, or say, anything about how much is eaten – this is left up to the child.

Learning to trust

In my experience, at first, parents can find it hard to trust the DOR (also known as the “trust model”): “Letting kids decide how much to eat – is that a responsible thing to do? Won’t they starve?” In fact, right from birth, children can eat the amount they need to grow well. A hungry baby will let you know! And when they are satisfied, they’ll let go of the nipple, turn their head away, lose interest, and/or fall asleep. As they grow older, children continue to have the ability to regulate their food intake. The DOR is all about trusting, respecting, and protecting this ability.

A shift

It can be quite a shift to learn to trust kids to eat enough. There’s also a bit to learn about how to apply the DOR; however, in my experience, when parents and caregivers start to apply this approach, many feel a huge sense of relief. They’ve been working so hard – too hard – and they can finally take a step back, and learn to trust their children to do their part with eating. In turn, children will start to become more relaxed at meal times as well, eating the amounts they have appetite for, and (eventually) exploring a greater variety of foods.

Learn more

Interested in learning more about the division of responsibility in feeding? Consider the following resources:

It might also be helpful to connect with a dietitian:

  • There are dietitians in various communities across Northern Health. A referral may be required.
  • BC residents can also access Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC, by calling 8-1-1 (or 604-215-8110 in some areas) and asking to speak with a dietitian.
Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health Nutrition team. Her work focuses on nutrition in the early years, and she is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. She loves food! You are likely to find her gathering and preserving local food, or exploring beautiful northwest BC on foot, bike, ski, kayak, or kite.

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Foodie Friday: Cooking with Mom

Loaf of strawberry bread

What does cooking a special meal mean to you? For dietitian Beth and her son, it includes cooking together on Mother’s Day. On the menu this year? Strawberry Bread!

This past weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day and I bet that a lot of you showed mom how much you love and appreciate her by sharing a meal with her. Or maybe you cooked up something special for her?

Many family traditions start with cooking a special meal for a celebration of some sort, whether it’s a holiday, birthday, wedding, or reunion. The foods in these meals conjure up memories of nurturing, love, and connection. A fond memory from my childhood is the aroma of apple pie baking in the oven. When I smelled the sweetness of the apples and cinnamon combined with the mouth-watering fragrance of the buttery pie crust, I knew we were having a celebration! The whole atmosphere of the house changed during this time. My mom would be a flurry of action in the kitchen while my siblings and I looked forward to the excitement of all the visitors and the tasty food. I learned to cook from my mom and she and I both are recipe collectors and cookbook hoarders. I love the time I spend preparing meals for special occasions. For me, cooking means nurturing loved ones, making happy memories and sharing delicious food.

What does cooking a special meal mean to you?

My son and I cook together on Mother’s Day, which is one of my favourite family traditions. This year, we made Strawberry Bread as part of Mother’s Day brunch for his Nana.

Here is the recipe, adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks: Simply in Season: Recipes that celebrate fresh, local foods in the spirit of more-with-less, by Mary Beth Linda and Cathleen Hockman-Wert.

Slices of strawberry breadStrawberry Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ¼ cup mashed strawberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup oil (we used ½ cup unsweetened applesauce and topped up with oil)
  • 2 eggs

Instructions

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Mix strawberries, sugar, oil and eggs together.
  3. Stir dry ingredients into strawberry mixture until just combined.
  4. Pour batter into a greased bread pan.
  5. Bake for about an hour in the oven at 350 degrees.
  6. Enjoy!
Beth Evans

About Beth Evans

As a registered dietitian, Beth is dedicated to helping individuals, families and communities make the healthiest choices available to them, and enjoy eating well based on their unique realities and nutrition needs. Juggling work and a very busy family life, Beth is grateful for the time she spends with her family enjoying family meals, long walks and bike rides. She also loves the quiet times exploring in her garden, experimenting in the kitchen, and practicing yoga and meditation.

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Foodie Friday: Planting seeds for healthy eating

Tomatoes, corn, eggs, chives, and potatoes

How do you involve kids in cooking? Even young kids can wash veggies or use a butter knife to cut up hard-boiled eggs. Hands-on food experiences help build kids’ knowledge, skills, and confidence with food.

Are you interested in helping kids become good eaters? Young children can’t do much with nutrition information, but they do benefit from:

Now that summer has arrived, there are many opportunities for hands-on food experiences for children. Build curiosity and excitement by involving kids in growing and gathering food. Even one potato plant or tomato plant in a large pot, or a small pot of chives or parsley, can provide great learning experiences for kids.

Imagine:

  • their excitement as they see the plant starting to grow
  • their sense of pride when they water the plant
  • their anticipation when they harvest the food from the plant
  • their curiosity as this food becomes part of a meal or snack

These practical learning experiences build their knowledge, skills and confidence with food.

Here is a recipe for a potato salad that can be made with local or store-bought ingredients this summer. It’s a flexible recipe – if you don’t have one of the vegetables, no troubles (well, except the potatoes – it just wouldn’t be potato salad without the potatoes, right?). Involve your kids! Even young kids can wash vegetables, use a butter knife to cut up the boiled eggs, or mix together the dressing.

Interested in more ways to plant seeds for healthy eating? Check out the resources for parents, teachers, and childcare programs after the recipe.

Potato salad

Not your same ol’ tater salad! Lise shares a perfect summer recipe with lots of modification options for your family to explore!

Not your same ol’ tater salad

Ingredients:

Dressing

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • Pepper, to taste

Salad

  • 7 medium potatoes, diced, boiled and drained (try keeping the skin on)
  • 2-3 ears of corn, boiled, niblets cut from the cob (or 1-2 cups canned or frozen corn)
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 cups green beans, steamed and chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • Small bunch of chives, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Boil potatoes, drain and put in a large bowl.
  2. Mix together dressing and toss in with potatoes (the dressing absorbs well when the potatoes are still warm).
  3. Prepare all other ingredients and mix together with potatoes.
  4. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Modifications:

Add or substitute kale, parsley, basil, baby tomatoes, thinly sliced onions, radishes, or something else! What would you or your kids tweak in this recipe?

More resources

For schools

  • Start small with a program like the BC Agriculture in the Classroom “Spuds in Tubs” program.

For childcare

  • Food Flair is a resource for early learning practitioners with many food activities for young children. See the “Fun and Learning About Healthy Eating,” “Bundles of Fun,” and “Let’s Make” sections.

At home

  • In addition to hands-on activities in the garden or in the kitchen, check out your local library’s collection of kids’ books about growing, harvesting, cooking and eating food.
  • Check out Better Together BC and the videos from winners of the Hands-On Cook-Off contest.
Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health Nutrition team. Her work focuses on nutrition in the early years, and she is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. She loves food! You are likely to find her gathering and preserving local food, or exploring beautiful northwest BC on foot, bike, ski, kayak, or kite.

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