Division of Responsibility

Where to Start

I can’t tell you how often I get emails and messages, like this:

I’ve been following your Instagram account for a while now and I love your approach to food! However, I’m finding it so hard to get my 2 year old daughter to eat healthy, filling foods. I try my best to only offer her nutritious options to help her get adequate fat, fiber, protein and veggies, but I’m telling you, her diet is largely dairy and fruit with some eggs mixed in when she’s feeling up for it. My husband and I have tried so many approaches, to backing off and seemingly “not caring” if she eats the food we offer her or not, to bribing, to ultimatums. We are at a loss! Do you have a course or something you offer? Any help would be so appreciated. 

Almost all of us parents need help in knowing how to feed our kids (myself included!), but only some will actually reach out to a registered dietitian to ask for it.

That’s why as we kick off the New Year, I want to make it as easy as possible for you to access whatever resources you and your family need to succeed in the year ahead.

 
 

Many of you have been asking me for courses, printables, and other easy to digest resources to help walk you through the best way to feed your kids.

While I have big hopes for all the resources yet to come (and based on more of your requests!), I have already created a few new offerings many of you don’t know about and yet could start using immediately!

You can find all of them on my new Start Here page.

 
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On my new Start Here page, I share:


As the year goes on, I will continue to update the Start Here page with new resources to help you, so keep checking back! Better yet, be sure you are signed up for my once weekly newsletter. You can join thousands of other moms who want FREE information for feeding their families better delivered to their inbox every Friday. I will also share exclusive promotions I run on products and services in my store!

To sign up, enter your email here:

I have so many Frequently Asked Questions in cue to post in the coming weeks that I can’t wait to share with you! Everything from how to handle bedtime snacks to what to do if your child only eats their “love it” food. I love receiving these questions from so many of you, so it is my goal in 2019 to connect you to the information, inspiration, and advice you need to raise achieve less meal time stress and more feeding success.

Thank you for including me in your journey!

How to Handle Halloween Candy with Kids

Y'all, these videos by Jimmy Fallon each year crack me up.

Not because I am some sick dietitian who just loves to see kid's Halloween candy taken from them, but rather because they show just a glimpse at how much kid's. love. candy.

How to handle Halloween candy with kids isn't a new issue of parenthood, nor does it come to any surprise to dietitians. I know it is one that a lot of you are probably wondering about though as we sit here just days away from Halloween.

Before we jump in though to talk about 13 lucky little lessons for how you can handle all that Halloween candy once it makes its way into your home, I want to encourage each of you to enjoy the festivities (including some nutritionally-absent food options in candy) on Halloween. On Halloween night, don’t stress over the sugar. Just cherish the times with your kids. See the joy in their eyes. Embrace their sticky fingers. Teach them to listen to their tummies. Foster freedom around food. Brush their teeth. Tuck them in agreeing that the day was the “best day ever” (in their innocent eyes).

Then tomorrow, you can begin to implement the following ideas for how all foods fit - including all that candy they carried home.

How to Handle Halloween Candy with Kids

Want to know how to make Halloween candy with kids a little less spooky?
Read these 13 lucky little lessons from a dietitian mom.

1) Remember the Basics of the Division of Responsibility.

If you want the most simple way to break down how I think we should handle allowing our kids to have Halloween candy, it all comes back to the basics of Ellyn Satter's Division of Responsibility. As a reminder, it is our job to determine what, when, and where our child eats. It is our child's job to determine if/whether and how much they eat. Connecting the dots between this and how it relates to Halloween candy, that means it is our job as the parent to set boundaries around what candy/treat is offered, when your child has it available, and where your child is allowed to eat it. Then, you can transfer the control and trust to let them determine if/whether and how much they eat (keep reading).

2) Don't make Halloween candy feel forbidden.

The more you can keep Halloween candy neutral, the better. Research is clear that kids who grow up in an environment where restriction, pressuring, and bribing is used (to get them to eat either a certain way or a certain amount), the more often they crave forbidden foods like candy. Maybe you can relate? If you were raised in a family where sweets and treats were overly off limits, you may find yourself struggling with self-control when it comes to common triggers like candy. Conversely, when approaches like the Division of Responsibility are used as the main form of food parenting, our kids learn how to self-regulate all foods, including candy. So even though it may seem as though a more strict food environment serves our kids well when it comes to Halloween candy, remember that the more restricted this highly appealing food becomes, the more your tactics may backfire.

3) Consider your kid.

I’m not saying to cater to the sugar obsessed kid and become totally permissive as a parent. What I am saying is to address their sugar obsession head on. Rather than forbid them from eating these preferred sweets more because you know they tend to obsess over them, consider creating a more liberal dessert policy in this season to help see it past. By offering these foods more often for a given period of time, you can establish an environment that shows you trust your child(ren) to listen to their bodies and make healthy choices. Kids in turn learn to trust their own intrinsic cues while still appropriately managing cravings and making smart food choices. While kids don't need added sugars in their diets (see the next point), a small amount for a given period of time can help take it off its preferred food pedestal.

4) Determine "enough."

While the Division of Responsibility deems it the child's role to determine if/whether and how much our child eats of a given food, there are exceptions to this when it comes to candy and dessert. This gets a bit confusing but in general comes back to parents finding smart strategies for what amount of candy is age-appropriate or rather “enough,” so that it doesn’t crowd out healthier options of food but also doesn’t restrict the sweet stuff so much that kids cravings for it increase (beyond expected). The dietitian in me would say no amount is necessary. The mom in me, however, realizes that a 90:10 food philosophy allows just enough flex room with food, especially in seasons like these. So if you are wanting a number of pieces of candy per day that gets the pass, you can review this calculation to find a general gauge for how much added sugar still falls within appropriate limits. You can also read more here for ideas on how you can determine healthy in your home, encourage pleasure, and promote self-regulation so “a little can go a long way” with candy and other foods that fall in the 10% (of discretionary calories).

5) Be clear and consistent.

Being clear about when your child can eat Halloween candy during the day (or scattered throughout the week) helps keep both of you sane until the candy bowl runs out (or gets forgotten about!). Amidst your child's frequent initial asking for Halloween candy, decide on a consistent answer for when they can expect to have it using a predetermined time of day. While this may differ from family to family in timing and frequency, it is important that you stay consistent. This makes it so candy isn't the dangling carrot in front of their nose that they always chase and yet never actually get to enjoy. It also makes it less tempting to use tactics like bribing (i.e. "If you eat all of your dinner, you can have a piece of Halloween candy). Instead, these clear and consistent expectations take the pressure off of you from daily deciding if/when to allow it and in what amount, while also freeing up your child's mental energy to focus on something other than an elusive forbidden food.

6) Determine the when.

Just as we talk about the aspects that fall under the parent's role with the Division of Responsibility, also comes the clear and consistent expectations around the when candy is offered. Just as we addressed above when each day candy will be offered, here I want to highlight the when in terms of how long it will be offered. Determine for your family the following: When is Halloween candy welcome in your home? For one day post-Halloween? One week? One month? Until it runs out? While some kids do forget about candy when it is kept out of sight and out of mind, other kids tend to do better with time limits that are set for the whole family. In our house, all candy is over my the time of my husband's birthday (which conveniently is November 6th). This helps us to enjoy it for the week following Halloween, but then get back to our normal eating habits and family dessert policy of desserts only on weekends and birthdays.

7) Include Halloween candy as a snack.

Crazy, right? Especially when I tell each of my coaching clients to use snacks to fill in nutritional gaps with non-traditional "snack foods." But that can be done here too simply by pairing the candy alongside a more nutrient-dense item like a glass of milk, side of fruit or veggies with dip, or handful of nuts (age permitting to prevent choking). When spaced appropriately with scheduled meals and snacks, offering Halloween candy as part of a child's snack makes it so it doesn't compete with more nutrient rich meals.

8) Find other nutritionally void foods to cut.

While it might sound crazy to offer candy as a snack, think of all the nutritionally poor options we default to offering out kids for snacks. From snack crackers to fruit snacks and roll-ups, it isn't the calories in these I am concerned about. It is the fact that those calories come at a valuable cost: the real estate in our kid's stomachs. So take this as an opportunity to become more intentional about when you are working to get in important nutrients. While candy isn't an ideal option to be offering, it can compel you to think through what other, everyday options you otherwise may have offered that also are nutritionally void. Start making a commitment to watch for added sugar in the other foods you offer, and gradually choose healthier, lower added sugar alternatives. While the new food labels are only rolled out on some food products so far, you can still look at the ingredient list to identify sources of added sugar. Then consider how you can make healthier choices to cut down the added sugar in your family's everyday favorites. This will create a habit that serves your family well far after the candy runs out.

9) Keep candy out of sight.

Just watch, and I think you’ll be surprised about how much more out of mind candy becomes if their pumpkin pale isn’t on the counter in plain sight. As mentioned from a study I shared on this post about five ways to curb sugar cravings in kids, keeping candy out of plain view helps keeps not to focus on it as frequently. The less they think about it, the less they ask for it, the less of a nonstop issue it needs to be from a nutritional standpoint. So put it away and wait until your child asks for it. Chances are that even before all of the candy gets consumed, your child will forget to ask for it at the set time (discussed above) and your family can just move on without it again.

10) Talk about the characteristics of candy.

If you want your child to wolf down their candy, help remove each piece from the wrapper and prepare to see your kid mindlessly go after it. Instead, let me suggest you try this. Use inquiry-based learning to slow down the eating process. Ask questions about a candy’s taste, texture, flavor, color, size, etc., to help your child slow down and savor their candy. Just as we as adults have to remind ourselves to do this, let's equip our children at a young age to be mindful eating. Not restrictive from any one food (no food allergies, permitting), but rather remind them to be mindful about each morsel they put into their mouths. Not only does this help our kids to learn to appreciate specific elements to fun “sometimes” foods (in these off seasons when they are offered), but this helps our kids to consume less as well. For more on avoiding labels around Halloween candy or other “forbidden foods,” read this article on Six Simple Takeaways on the Sticky Subject of Sugar.”

11) Look at behaviors beyond the candy bowl.

We obsess so much about if/whether our kids eat Halloween candy that we divert our focus and honestly our accountability from the constant, day to day feeding behaviors we have irregardless of Halloween. While it is of obvious importance to limit added sugars as an overall feeding principle in our families, we also need to keep in mind that there are likely many other feeding behaviors that we could improve on also. So rather than getting too focused on the candy at hand, let's also take Halloween as an opportunity to consider what other feeding habits we could pay closer attention to.

12) Consider other creative options.

Just as Elf of the Shelf took the Christmas season by storm, many parents are also adopting a "Switch Witch" for handling the candy after Halloween. Many local dentist offices also participate in candy swap out programs, so ask your child's dentist if they do something list this.

13) Transition into a season of Gratitude.

As October ends and a time for Thanksgiving nears, teach your kids to consider how they could serve others with their candy. This may be sending the candy to troops, donating it to Ronald McDonald House for sick children who couldn't trick or treat, or by making a visit to a local elderly facility to share it with them. From a work site wellness standpoint, I tend to not encourage parents taking it all to work with them as the alternative. Instead, engage your kids in community outreach ideas that will help others to enjoy the candy when they otherwise wouldn't be mobilized on their own to do so.


Final Challenge: Be Big Picture About It

However you choose to handle all of that leftover Halloween candy with your kids, remember the big picture. Our goal in even having this conversation is to instill in our children a healthy relationship with all foods - even those that we don't always love or want them eating a lot of like candy. By teaching them when it's appropriate and how to self-regulate these types of foods, we empower them to handle all of the Halloweens to come with confidence around candy. That is no costume, but rather a true eating competence to aim for within each of our families.

Happy Halloween to all of you, my favorite guys and ghouls!

How to Make One Meal for the Whole Family

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Super Simple Online. As always, all opinions are my own.

If you find yourself short-order cooking and amidst the stressful dynamics of making everyone a separate meal, you need to tune in to today's post.

Over on the Super Silly blog, I share how to How to Make One Meal for the Whole Family. With five considerations to avoid short-order cooking or fights over the food that is offered, this post will walk you through some of the steps to establishing set a new precedence at family meals. These act as a framework to help you begin serving one meal for the whole family.

I am confident that these five steps can help families find newfound freedom with what to offer at meal times, making the shared experience at the table a happy and healthy one! Which one will you start implementing tonight?


For more on this topic, visit these posts:


How to Make One Meal for the Whole Family Menu Ideas

I spent the first half of 2018 sharing family-friendly meal plans on the Veggies & Virtue blog. I also sent bonus content each week to subscribers on serving these up to more apprehensive of eaters, using my "Love it, Like it, Learning it approach to deciding "what to offer" so that everyone has something at the table they enjoy! To join the thousands of mamas who receive this newsletter each week, join here!

Otherwise, review the menus for Winter and Spring by clicking on the thumbnails below. You will find a variety of ideas of family-friendly meal ideas, all of which can be offered as one meal for the whole family!

Looking for more inspiration on how to offer one meal to the whole family?

Be sure to follow #onemealtwoways each week on my Instagram! With each, you will see how one meal is offered two ways for my child and my preferences and on each of our plates!

Summer Potlucks and Picky Eaters

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Regalo. Thank you Regalo for providing us with the Portable Activity Chairs to enjoy at all of our summer potlucks.

I would love to be the dietitian whose kid ate anything and everything at a good summer barbecue. From marinated meats to grilled veggies to an assortment of mixed pasta salads and fresh green salads, there are so many foods I love about summer...that my kids won't touch.

I recognize that I am not alone in this, especially after how many times I have seen parents carefully make a plate with the 1-2 foods their child *may* eat.

Besides the distractions of other kids making it hard to sit still and the foods that are likely prepared differently than what's offered at homes, kids -- especially picky eaters -- can really struggle with what to eat when at summer gatherings.

Our kids struggle is our stress. Am I right?

So let's lay down some ground rules for your next summer potluck.

Here is how to take your picky eater to a summer potluck (without stressing):

 

Follow a Division of Responsibility with Feeding (addressing  the WHO)

As I recommend as the #1 key to success in this free parent download, the first thing we as parents must do is recreate our attitude and approach to feeding our child(ren). If you aren't already owning your responsibility of feeding your child, that needs to be your first goal.
A parent's responsibility is the WHAT, WHEN, and WHERE their child is offered food.

By your assuming these responsibility prior to a public potluck, you set both your child and you up for a more enjoyable meal time shared with others. The following ideas address some ways you can help with the what, when, and where of what you're responsible for, so that your child is better able to succeed with their responsibility in eating.
A child's responsibility is the if/whether and how much they eat from what is offered.

 

Always bring something you know your kid will eat (addressing the WHAT)

Have you started working through the Love it, Like it, Learning it approach with your child (Key #2 in this free parent printable)? If not, prior to a potluck is a great time to give it a try. Because by bringing a dish to a potluck (or offering one when hosting) that you know your family/child LOVES (a "love it" food), you will then be able to rest assured that there is at least something for your child to eat at the gathering -- even if they are still learning to like everything else.

Of note: If you are bringing/serving more than one item, all of them don't have to be tailored to your picky eater. Just make sure that you are providing at least one option you know they will eat, even if it is just fresh cut watermelon. It should not be on the host to accommodate to your picky eater, nor should you have to stress at an otherwise fun gathering about if/whether and how much your child will eat. If you help work through the WHAT is being offering, if and how much they eat is on them.

 

Help your child adjust to the timing (addressing the WHEN)

The reality is, potlucks aren't always planned at the ideal time for every family when there are several people and one gathering place to consider. Sometimes the potluck may interfere with nap time and more commonly, they can run late and into night time. With each of these timing conflicts, the time in which your child gets to (or doesn't get to) eat may create issues.

So help your child from getting hangry by giving them a balanced snack ahead of time. Then when you arrive (or as guests have all arrived, when hosting), consider the timing of when others may be eating. If it is a casual potluck where food is out for the serving, serve your child a plate when you know they would usually eat. Waiting until too late can backfire as we all know, so instead, encourage fellow parents to come alongside you to feed the kids first so that they don't become excessively hungry. 

 

B.Y.O.B. (addressing the WHERE)

That's right: Bring Your Own Backrest!

So many times at group gatherings, there isn't enough room for everyone to sit. Unfortunately, this often encourages kids to graze and walk around while eating, only to leave a potluck without ever really eating anything of substance. Instead, bring your kids their own portable chairs like this one from Regalo. Unlike just lying out a blanket and expecting your kids to sit still and eat well, this chair from Regalo puts kids in a more upright position for eating at potlucks. Plus, we love how these Portable Activity Chairs by are compact and easy to carry with us to any potluck or outdoor event. It's also surprisingly easy to wipe down (or hose off!) so kids can sit and eat at it without us obsessing over the mess. I have found this portable activity chair to be especially helpful with feeding our youngest too. The weight limit for this chair is 50 pounds, so thankfully I know we will get several more years out of it even with our three year old. But it has proven especially convenient with our one year old! Although I love a good portable high chair, I can't always seem to find a spare chair to strap their portable high chair onto at potlucks. Regalo's Portable Activity Chair gives me the ease and accessibility of keeping my child safe while eating in one spot that I can easily make near me and amidst their friends.

Want to win your own portable activity chair? Enter here! Please note: Giveaway closes at midnight CST on July 21st, 2017.

Practice Family Style Meals in Advance (addressing the IF/WHETHER)

Most young children are used to their parents preparing them a plate and picky what goes on it. At places like potlucks where there may be a lot of unfamiliar foods that could make your picky eater uncomfortable, that means you will end up with only a couple of items on their plates (if you're lucky).

So set them up for success by practicing family-style serving. If you don't use this approach already, offer meals family style a few times before the upcoming potluck. This primes them to how meals can be offered at group gathering and gives them a sense of control over what they eat by being able to self-serve themselves. This is bound to minimize their fear over the uncertain foods being offered (i.e. the learning it foods) while equipping them with some age-appropriate autonomy to choose the foods they love or at least like from those being offered.

 

Don't call your kid a picky eater publicly (addressing the HOW MUCH)

Do you want to know one of the best ways to raise a picky eater? Keep calling them picky, especially in front of others.

The more your kid hears you identify them in this way, the more they will own this title. For example, if they know that you expect them to not eat, throw a fit, or expect an alternative to what is offered at the potluck, that is the persona they will assume publicly. Instead, don't say anything. Keep your attitude light and positive and more about the social aspect of time with family and friends than on the food your kid won't eat.

 

Time to Pack Up and Have a Potluck

Potlucks can be a great first exposure to informal social gatherings. They provide a natural, relaxed environment to train your kids in what is expected of them in such social settings. So help your child embrace these experiences from an early age, instead of expecting them to know how to adjust to out-of-the-norm meal times on their own. by applying a few simple techniques, don't be surprised if summer gatherings create less meal time stress and more feeding success.

 

Cheers to summer time and your chances to win this fun activity chair from Regalo!

Enter below to double your chances to win! Giveaway closes at midnight CST on July 21st, 2017.

The Beginner's Guide to Love it, Like it, Learning it

If you have been following Veggies & Virtue for any amount of time, you have likely heard me use the term "Love it, Like it, Learning it." In fact, my Instagram followers were privy to seeing these lunchboxes as my earliest social shares. Some of my only blog posts in the beginning told of the lessons I learned using Love it, Like it, Learning it with my oldest daughter. This past year, I shared a bit more of the inside scoop of what she loved versus is still learning with these before and after lunches.

 

 
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So in attempts to further help you understand this concept in a way you can apply with your own kids, here is a run down to:

The Beginner's Guide to Love it, Like it, Learning it


What is “Love it, Like it, Learning it?”

“Love It, Like It, Learning It” is a feeding approach that fosters exposure to a variety of foods. This approach minimizes age-appropriate pickiness while creating a well-rounded food environment, even for the most apprehensive (i.e. pickiest) of eaters. With a foundation in the Division of Responsibility in Feeding, “Love It, Like It, Learning It” can help kids develop a taste for healthier food without a fight. Through the simple saying and straight-forward strategies, parents can quickly begin to build better meal plans, offer more variety, and lead their families to eating more real food on a regular basis.

 

What are “Love it,” “Like it,” and “Learning it” foods?

Love It Foods: Foods your child consistently likes and preferentially favors compared to all others. These are foods your child eats most of the time.

Like It Foods: Foods your child usually likes but may eat less (or none) of when offered alongside “love it” foods. These are foods your child eats some of the time they are offered.

Learning It Foods: Foods your child rarely (if ever) likes and may or may not have ever been exposed to before. These are foods your child eats almost none of the time they are offered.

 

Why use a “Love it, Like it, Learning it” approach?

The first several years of a child’s life are crucial for developing healthy eating behaviors. Setting the foundation for future eating habits and taste preferences to develop, these early years are when children begin to be exposed to a wide variety of real foods. Many children however, especially those between the ages of 2-5 years, face food neophobia, or the fear of new foods.

Parents often misunderstand this age-appropriate behavior as rebellion, stubbornness, or defiance when in reality picky eating is a normal part of childhood. Instead of handling it as an expected part of raising a healthy eater, parents often resort to bribery, coercion, and food wars in attempts to force their child to eat the foods being offered. Just as bad, some parents may become short-order cooks and only offer LOVE IT or LIKE It FoodS to accommodate their child’s picky eating. None of these approaches work, however.

Alternatively, research shows that kids need to be exposed to LEARNING It Foods upwards of 12-20 times. Many parents either prematurely burn out on offering these foods this many times, or they become discouraged when their child seems to repeatedly refuse them. This leads parents to assume their child “doesn’t like it” too early, rather than viewing it as their child “still learning” a new, unfamiliar food.

 

How does a “Love it, Like it, Learning it” approach work?

Much like learning to swim or ride a bike, learning something new is often a little uncomfortable for kids at first. It takes a lot of repeated exposure partnered with the time, effort, and patience of both the parent and child. However, when children are allowed the freedom to learn in a conducive, non-coercive environment, the new skill slowly but surely begins to properly develop.

Much is the same with raising a child who becomes what pediatric feeding expert Ellyn Satter calls a “competent eater.”

For kids, pairing LOVE IT or LIKE IT foods with LEARNING IT foods makes new foods appear less threatening. Research shows that when familiar and unfamiliar foods are offered together, it may make children more likely to try the unfamiliar, LEARNING IT food (especially for the neophobic child).

Over time, offering meals in this way also helps to reshape how your child expects foods to be offered. Rather than expecting every meal to be made up of only their favorites, they understand that family meals include a variety of foods that each member of the family enjoys. Children become calm and confident around new foods, rather than anxious and irritated. This also helps children to understand that there will always be foods they are “still learning” while adapting and/or accepting them at their own pace.

For parents, pairing LOVE IT or LIKE It foods with LEARNING IT foods offers peace of mind that there is always something being offered that their kid should/could/usually would eat. This lessens the meal time stress of “what to make” for a picky eater. It eliminates the tendency to offer back-ups when the initial meal is turned down. It re-establishes a Division of Responsibility in feeding for your family that restores enjoyment for family meals. It also draws the line that if a child chooses not to eat the LOVE IT or LIKE IT foods being offered, that’s on them. More commonly what parents see is that when offered in a non-threatening manner, kids begin to learn how to expand their diets over time to accept more real foods.

 

Where should I go to get help with implementing “Love it, Like it, Learning it” in my own home?

I am glad you asked! You have a few options, depending on how invested you are in quick, effective implementation.

  • Follow Veggies & Virtue on Instagram and Facebook

  • Search #loveitlikeitlearningit on Instagram to find new ideas from me and to see how others are using it in their homes

  • Subscribe to my weekly newsletter so you see it shown on every meal plan I send out.

  • Use the worksheet download below to begin offering love it, like it, and learning it foods to your littles. With it, you are given suggestions for 150 kid-friendly foods and a Love it, Like it, Learning it template to fill in using the foods that are unique to your child's food preferences. This is the most actionable place to start if you ready to expand your child's diet.

Now it's time to act.

If you are wanting to help equip your child to be a "competent eater" (as Ellyn Satter so well defines it), now is your time to take action. Start using this approach in your home, while too getting the help you need to help your family succeed. I can't wait to hear of your success once you get started!