6 thoughts on “Teaching Kids to Eat Healthy: Q&A with Feeding Expert Katja Rowell

  • September 14, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Thanks for this! I don’t have children myself, but I often get asked questions about how the intuitive eating approach applies to children. People are SO panicked about their children gaining weight. I tend to refer folks to Ellyn Satter. Now I have another great resource to share with them! Thanks for introducing us to Dr. Rowell!


    • September 14, 2010 at 11:13 am

      @ Joy, you’re so welcome. 🙂 I think Dr. Rowell is amazing. I also don’t have kids but I know that I’ll be referring to Dr. Rowell and Ellyn Satter’s work when I do. Parents are definitely panicked about their kids gaining weight, and the hysteria over the obesity epidemic clearly just makes things worse.

  • September 14, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    I think feeding problems begin at birth. Women are told that they don’t have enough breast milk to feed their infants. (When milk production is determined by infant demand!!) There is a preference for bottle feeding (by Doctors and Mothers) because they can see or measure how much a baby is eating. (Not to mention ‘control’ how much they are feeding them.)

  • September 14, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    I’m a weight loss coach who had to lose 75 lbs deep into adulthood after yo-yoing on the diet game for 25 years. Not pretty.

    But having a child actually started me on my journey. When I learned I was pregnant, I was overweight. Instead of any sort of diet, I immediately began to eat in a healthier manner – more balanced. My doctor said the main thing I really needed was a little extra calcium, protein and carb. So, after years of sugar addiction, I gave myself permission to have an afternoon snack that involved calcium. It was either a glass of milk with 2 choc chip cookies or ice cream (yes the full fat kind!).

    Miraculously, my binging stopped. I exercised more, I fretted less. I lost 9 lbs. the first trimester and gained 9 in the last two. (Now, the AMA says there is no need for overweight moms to gain weight with pregnancy, but you need to be in touch with your doc on this – we could easily see the baby growing on sonograms so she was happy with me. I was happy with me. My son was 8 lbs. 1 ounce when he was born. He has, for the record, never been sick for more than 24 hours in his life and that is exceedingly rare.)

    After he was born, I took my cues from him. He has taught me so much about real hunger and satiation. From a very early age, he ate funny stuff – loved broccoli, never uses salad dressing of any kind (eats his salad, which as a toddler he called “green food” plain), INSISTS on protein (it’s almost laughable but now, as a 17-yr-old, he’ll come home from school and scream “MEAT I NEED MEAT NOW!” and he means it!). Some days he has no interest in carbs and some days he tells me he wants pasta.

    He also, without any cue from anyone, started running around the house after dinner every night. This occurred right after he started to walk. After a little running, he would jump on my bed a while, then stretch in the funniest ways. Sometimes he called it karate, sometimes he called it stretching. Don’t ask me where this came from; I still have no idea except that it came from him.

    I’m sure I don’t have to tell you he’s never had a weight issue. I do try to keep him apprised of the corn syrup “revolution” but he does drink sodas when he’s not at home.

    I’m really fearful of the moms who want to measure and control their child’s food to the serving or calorie limit. Why am I fearful of that? I know where it leads.

    EVERY client I’ve worked with as a professional weight loss coach has horror stories of their parents weighing them, measuring food or restricting food. It is so difficult to get over it later in life.

    On the other hand, I did get over my early programming (mom put me on my first diet at age 10) and awareness is key.

    Thanks for a great post! As mothers, we have a real resource and it’s certainly not the internet or the latest magazine issue. It’s our intuition – and many of us have lost touch with it – but it’s an invaluable and healthy guide.

    Pat Barone, CPCC, PCC
    “America’s Weight Loss Catalyst”

  • September 14, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    This sounds a lot like intuitive eating for children! It is really interesting to think back even on the ways in which we (adults) were taught to eat. Dr. Rowan illustrates a great point with remark about child-care workers making statements of control with regard to food. You so often hear parents telling children exactly how much, what, and when to eat and failing to take cues from the child. And then when the child grows up, we wonder why he or she finds it so difficult to gauge their internal cues and make their own healthy food choices.

  • July 21, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    I have been raising a picky eater for 4 years now. It started when she transitioned to solids at 6 months. She never wanted to open her mouth. She still nursed frequently, so I wasn’t that worried about it. She got better when we moved from spoon feeding to allowing her to pick up small chunks. From about 7 months to 12 months, she would willing pick up little chunks of broccoli and put them in her mouth. Then around a year, she only wanted to eat carbs. We always provided a well balanced meal with 1/2 veg, 1/4 meat and 1/4 carb. For a while we went on with the technique of putting her supper in front of her, letting her eat what she wanted out of it, but not giving her other options (eg no short order cooking) She would eat her rice and meat and leave her veggies. If she didn’t like the meal, she would gladly skip dinner, and then eat two helpings of cereal at breakfast instead of one. She refused to eat at daycare. She would go for weeks at a time on just one meal, breakfast because she loved cereal. She could live on it. As she got older it was cereal and meat. Eventually we abandoned this technique, because it did not work for her. We had to be tougher.

    Now we put one item of each thing on her plate, although I will give her more meat because she likes it. She must eat one item of each thing, then she can have more of whatever she wants, even if it is just meat. If she does not eat her dinner, she must eat it in the morning before she can have cereal for breakfast. I was very resistant to this technique because it sounds cruel, but my husband swore by it. It worked. Now my daughter’s range of foods that she will eat without complaining has expanded to even include vegetables.

    We have discovered that for her, anything new is gross. After she has eaten it about 20 times, then she starts to say she likes it. If she is not forced to eat it, she will never get to that point. Once it becomes familiar, she likes it and no longer fears it.

    I have taught her techniques that I learned growing up as a picky child. For example, you don’t like a veggie, eat it with a piece of meat and you taste it less, or wash it down with a drink. This trick works for her, and so I always ensure to count the veggies in her plate and ensure there is a piece of meat for each veggie.

    We also explained to her that everybody has things that they don’t like. We vary the menu to reflect the tastes of the entire family and each person’s tastes have equal weight. Some days will be favorites other days will be less so.

    I am also honest with her about my tastes, and my struggles growing up as a picky child. My mother never forced me to eat anything, and I grew into a picky adult. I would feel sheer terror any time I had to eat at somebody’s house because I knew there would be something I didn’t like, and I was too polite to not eat it. It was not until I left home and my husband forced me to eat different foods that my palate adjusted and I lost my fear of new foods. I still don’t like a lot of foods but I am honest with my daughter about this. If we are eating brussell sprouts, which everybody hates except my husband, when my daughter says, “I don’t like that”, I will say, “Neither do I” and pop one in my mouth and eat it without complaining or making a face.

    I do believe that this is a personality thing. My second child loved food right away. The only times we have issues with her is when she copies her sister. The daycare always gushes about how well she eats.

    Not every method is right for every child. Not every child can self regulate. My daughter has never come home from daycare saying, “I want meat.” She comes home saying, I want crackers, or cookies, or cereal. She consistently would eat from only one food group if I let her, and she would never crave broccoli. It took me a year of trying the give them healthy options and let them regulate their eating before I caved and let my husband put on a little pressure. Now she eats and we no longer have to fight at dinner time. It just took getting her familiar with the foods.

    My youngest is the opposite. Give her a new food she will love it. Feed it too her too many times and she will start to hate it. One likes familiarity, the other needs variety. Go figure.


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