How Much Do You Care about Your Kids' Eating? How Much is Too Much?

Oct 24, 2011 by

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In the mid-90s TV show My So-Called Life, a baby-faced Claire Danes plays Angela Chase, an emo teenager.

About four minutes into the pilot episode, the scene opens with Angela’s sigh, and an arial view of her plate of peas with mashed potatoes and gravy and meatloaf being pushed around by her fork.

“I cannot bring myself to eat a well balanced meal in front of my  mother,” says Angela in a voice-over. “It just means too much to her,”.

An old Zits comic strip uses the identical statement to illustrate the same kid attitude.

Jeremy is earnestly confiding in his best friend, Hector, how he…

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Another Bad Tip for Feeding the Hypersensitive, Orally Defensive or Sensory Processing Disordered Child

Nov 30, 2010 by

In my last post, we looked at Amy, one of those children generally considered to be on the autism spectrum, with neurological and physiological causes for being a picky eater.   Amy was diagnosed as “hypersensitive to oral input” or “orally defensive.”

Such children should be under the supervision of a doctor to make sure that their nutritional needs are met. But as with all children who resist eating, the family dynamics and relationship around eating can either aggravate the problems, or ease them.

Amy’s parents do their best to get her to eat. Most recommendations they’ve been given for getting their hypersensitive child to eat involve various forms of pressure and urging. The more desperate they are to get her to…

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"Stealth Health" or "Psychological Nudges"? Getting kids eating better

Oct 25, 2010 by

This morning on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, two solutions were offered to get kids eating healthier at school.

The first, developed by a couple of moms, is to conceal pureed vegetables–“hidden healthies”– in kid favorites like cheese sauce on corn chips.  Obviously, this is a plan inspired by two mom-authored cookbooks published a few years ago, which arm moms with all the weaponry for getting vegetables down kids’ throats without their realizing. These  double-dealing recipes are, I supposed, probably nutritionally superior to the processed junk most schools seem to be feeding kids.

The problem with this approach, as pointed out by…

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Why Dessert as a Bribe is a Bad Bargain

Aug 13, 2010 by

Let’s just say we want to eat ice cream every night as dessert after dinner. We’re grown-ups, so we eat our dinner first. The problem comes when the kids, who don’t care about what’s good for them, just want to eat the ice cream and skip the salad, meat and veggies.

So we make a bargain, for their own good: they have to eat dinner before they can have ice cream. Sometimes it works. Sometimes maybe it’s the only way we can make the children eat their dinner.  It becomes complicated, though: just how much dinner must one eat to get the ice cream? If they won’t eat what we want them to eat, we deny them the ice cream. Then they throw fits. Should we quit eating ice cream? Should we let the kids do what they want? Things are not going well, and no answer to the problem…

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How to get kids to eat at the table? The Push & Pull Principle

Apr 14, 2010 by

Two totally true stories moms recently told me illustrate a key principle in getting kids to come to the table, behave, and eat what you want them to eat.

Marlena’s kids are very narrow in what they will eat. They’re afraid of new foods. The dinner table is a battlefield of pressuring and resistance. Her overweight four-year-old, Walker, survives on bean-and-cheese tacos, filling up on juice to make it through the day to avoid other foods.

When her children won’t eat dinner, she feeds them whatever they are willing to eat, right before bed, in order to keep them asleep (so they don’t scream during the night).

One evening the whole family was doing the chicken dance after each bite Walker took, because that’s what got him to eat. She also considered it an improvement the other day when he allowed her to spoon chicken and rice into his mouth while he…

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Foolish freedom: Why some kids refuse to eat, even to the point of harming themselves

Dec 17, 2009 by

“Leave them alone, and they will come home.” — Little Bo Peep

Sometimes a kid can be like a wild mouse, according to some lab studies of mice. Though I oppose the conditioning of young humans with incentives as if they were rats in a lab, test animals’ reactions can sometimes illustrate something about why kids—or grownups—do what they do.

A group of wild mice was brought into a lab and taught to turn on their own cage lights. Given the choice between bright light, dim light or no light at all, the mice would always choose dim light. But whenever the dim light was switched on for them, they would run and change it to either bright light or no light.

In another test, the mice, who for their own good needed and wanted to run about eight hours a day, were given a wheel to run on and also…

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