Don't Make These Feeding Mistakes

By Stacy Whitman

Raise a kid who loves salmon and salad? Isn’t afraid to try new foods? Doesn’t overindulge on junk? Knows when to stop noshing in general? Yes, it is possible—but you have to know how. (Hint: It doesn’t involve insisting that he try “just one bite” or promising dessert if he finishes his broccoli!)

Parents can have a powerful impact on a child’s lifelong eating habits and relationship to food, says Ellyn Satter, RD, a registered dietitian and author of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family (2008). But despite our good intentions, many of us unknowingly create problems (from extreme pickiness to weight issues and eating disorders) by interfering with our tots’ eating, or not being positive or providing structure and opportunities to learn.

Sure, we all make mistakes. But when it comes to feeding our kids, they can have serious consequences. According to Satter, up to 30 percent of kids develop such bad eating problems (including consuming too much or too little food, difficulty learning the mechanics of eating and objectionable mealtime behaviors) that their parents seek professional help. And countless numbers go on to experience conflict and anxiety about eating.

To keep this from happening in your family, we asked a panel of experts to point out the top feeding errors—and explain what you should be doing instead. Take their advice and your child should learn how to eat—and love—a variety of foods and stay in tune with his natural hunger cues. And with any luck, those mealtime battles should be over for good.