Recently we read the book The Berenstain Bears Go Out to Eat. The Berenstain Books were some of my favorite books when I was kid. Unfortunately, this particular title will not be staying on our shelf. In the book Mama Bear tells the kids they can’t order french fries and have to order broccoli. Not only do they have to order it but they have to eat all of it. Eating out is fun. Food is fun. Oskar picks fruit to eat at fast food places because he doesn’t care for fries. Bodie LOVES fries and doesn’t really care for most fruit. They figured this out on their own without me forcing them to order something they didn’t want.
Halloween night with a 3 year old and a just turned 5 year old is pretty typical at our house. We trick or treat as long as they can walk and then we head home. Once we are home I go through the candy and take what isn’t safe for Bodie out of his pile. And then I let them eat whatever they want and as much as they want. Yes. As much as they want. I do not limit the amount of candy they eat even though we are minutes from bedtime.
When I serve lunch at home I will often give them dessert with their lunch. Most of the time they will take a few bites of the dessert first. I never tell them that they can’t eat it first. Or that they have to finish their vegetable first. They can eat all of dessert first for all I care. This is Intuitive Eating.
Most people think I or rather my husband and I are straight up crazy to do this. We don’t bribe with food. We don’t reward with food. We do not force our kids to try anything. We do not make them take 3 bites or insist they clean their plate. Never. We provide they decide. Every single time. If we are present for meal time then this is what we follow.
Intuitive eating is becoming a buzz word but it’s something our kids have been doing since they started eating at six months old. They follow their own internal signals when it comes to food. They do this automatically, it comes natural to them. When Bodie was 4 months I joined a group on Facebook called Feeding Littles. It is run by dietitian, Megan and an occupational therapist, Judy. They both specialize in pediatric feeding. They are AMAZING and introduced me to the idea of Baby Led Weaning. Rather than baby foods we gave Bodie solid foods at 6 months/when he could sit up on his own. His first food was a slice of avocado with the peel left on to help him grip it. Then a banana, then toast strips, etc. He gagged a lot and sometimes food barely made it into his mouth. As he got older and better with chewing he was able to decide on his own when he was full. By doing baby led weaning he had learned his own signals of being full or hungry. There were days he had a lot to eat and other days he barely ate anything. It was all normal. Megan talks a lot about intuitive eating on the Feeding Littles instagram stories. So much that it inspired me to read the book and practice it myself.
Let’s go back to Halloween. That night I served dinner while they went through their pile of candy. Bodie had a meatball in one hand and a skittle in the other. He would go back and forth between the meatball and candy. After about 5 packages of candy, he was done with it and finished his dinner. Oskar on the other hand, being 3 had too much candy and said his belly was too full. From that moment I’ve never seen him eat more than a few pieces of candy. He will tell me about what happened on Halloween. ‘I got so full on candy and my belly was so big and it didn’t feel good.’ I believe this is intuitive eating. Oskar learned that sometimes food can make us feel bad.
Intuitive eating places ZERO importance on any type of food. ZERO. Yes, we talk about vitamins and nutrients and what they do for us but if we reward with sugar then we are telling the boys that sugar is more important than broccoli. By rewarding with sugar we are saying it is the best and it is a prize that you should always want. What I wish Mama Bear said was, ‘of course you can have fries.’ Then Mama Bear orders broccoli for the table they decide if they want it or not. It took the boys FOREVER to try broccoli and other vegetables. It is still a struggle. Recently though, if Bryce and I have a salad with dinner, they will sometimes eat one with us. They came around to it on their own.
Intuitive Eating and baby led weaning. It’s pretty amazing and we’ve been so pleased with how well it has worked for our family. We present and they decide. A lot of nights they do not eat dinner and they whine about what I present. I keep presenting and I always include something I know they will like (often that is toast). Eventually, they try it and realize they like it.
I am not a dietitian. I am not an expert when it comes to pediatric feeding. This is what works for our family and I wanted to share how well it works. Now if someone could tell me how make the evening dinner time routine less of a shit show, I am all ears.