Friends have asked me about my thoughts on "treats/desserts" and general family meal time. So I am taking this opportunity to post my first piece on family nutrition and positive mealtime habits. My work has been influenced by other experts, my personal experiences, my life as a nutrition professional, step mother, wife, and sister. I observe, listen and I am continual problem solver. I wish I could say my approach is 100% effective and is a "one size fits all". The truth is...my approach does not always work all the time and will not work for everyone. It is another tool in your toolbox, so whip it out when you need it.
My approach is based on creating a positive mealtime experience, fortifying a trusting relationship between feeder (ME) and eater (people), creating an authentic experience for everyone and NOW, deepening my relationship with food and eating/feeding.
Here are the topics, people and approaches that I use in my personal and professional practice:
- Ellyn Satter (Division of Responsibility)
- Kay Toomey (Steps to Eating)
- Intuitive Eating/Mindful Eating
- Whole Foods Eating
- Family Meal Style Service (Positive Meal Times)
- Everyday Food and Party Food
- Using neutral words to describe foods (use descriptors that are factual, crunchy, green, mushy, sweet and avoid words like good, bad, healthy, yucky, etc). I do not believe in "good vs bad" food
- Appreciate every family dynamic
- Picky Eating is not a "problem" it is appropriate eating behavior, it implies there's something wrong
- There's no such thing as "kid friendly foods" only foods appropriate for kids
- Embrace the big picture and avoid dissecting each meal into macro/micro-nutrients
- Appreciate the body's ability to continuously manage daily living, it is a perfectly functioning system and our job is to sustain it
- Health is dynamic, achieving "health" is a continual process. Our relationship with food and health matures and changes as much as we do every year.
- Using our strengths and our curiosity as a vehicle to introduce new ideas
- Calorie does not equal calorie (fruit snack vs fresh orange - same calories, same carbs, same vitamin C content; but acts very differently in our bodies)
- Bring joy to meal times, because anything else is too hard
- Focus on the time we share with our family and food is the extra BLING
- I am an expert in my own eating, feeding and family - not yours, so tell me about it.
- There's always exceptions
- We grow in our own way and I encourage that we all honor and respect individual growth
- I don't weigh, measure or count calories (I am very suspicious of people who do, because that means they are robots).
With the question of treats and dessert...how do I feel about it. I love desserts and believe it has a place in our eating. When I approach eating something sweet, I go for the high end -- because it is a treat and I want it to be special (I don't do this all the time, because sometimes you want a cookie with your coffee while out with your friends). I make it social and I share. Desserts makes me happy, it does - and I am not sure what that makes me, but I never turn down chocolate. HOWEVER - "too much of a good thing..." Most treats and sweets have added nutrition which over time, add up. I realize that my constant permissiveness around treats (overall eating) was/is hurting me. I did not want to battle myself with food and so I ate without guilt. I had suffered (most of my life) guilt and shame over how much food I ate, what I liked to eat, and I did not enjoy it. I forced myself to eat really un-tasty food and I hated it. I did not want to do that anymore and feel deprived. I thought I was taking care of myself when I ate foods that I wanted to eat. What did I learn? Being permissive about my eating was NOT self care. To truly care for myself, I have to think what I am eating...self care is not self indulgence. Modeling this at family meal times is so important part of this experience; having a positive relationship with food, eating and feeding. It's the ideal time to practice all of this while deepening your relationship with the people at your table.