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Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Parents must raise children to be 'competent eaters'

Dear Tom,
It's been one year since you first became a father. And your daughter (my granddaughter) may well be the most perfect child in the world ... in my opinion.
Frances is not the biggest apple in the basket. Neither is she the smallest. She is perfectly healthy for her God-given size.
Her mommy calmly offers her a variety of foods at appropriate intervals during the day. And because of that, Frances is happy and trusting and eats what she needs when she is hungry.
In the words of Mr. Rogers (remember him?) "Knowing deep within us that someone is going to feed us when we are hungry is how trust and love begin."
Child nutrition experts agree. According to "the feeding doctor" Dr. Katia Rowell (, "how we feed our children is as important as what we feed them."
We can unwittingly set our kids up for "weight dysregulation" when we worry too much about how they eat.
Your goal as a parent? Raise little Frances to become a "competent eater"
Competent eaters have better nutrition, enjoy food in a healthier way, and tend to thrive better socially and emotionally, experts say.
Know the "Division of Responsibility." Parents are responsible for what, where and when their youngster eats, said child feeding expert Ellyn Satter.
Children are responsible for how much they eat of kid-appropriate food.
Move toward structure. Kids do not need to "graze." Frances does well to sit down for her meals and snacks every two to three hours.
Eat meals as a family.
Give up control. Power struggles can backfire, Rowell warns. A child forced to eat more may resist and eat less. And one who is overly restricted often wants to eat more.
Recognize cues for hunger and fullness. Frances gets a bit fussy when she is hungry. And when she is ready to eat, she opens her mouth freely for the food offered.
When she has had enough thank you very much, she turns her head away and closes her mouth.
Introduce a new food along with at least one familiar food. Like most young children, Frances may need to try a new food several times (sometimes up to 10 times) before she decides she likes it or not.
Expect a mess. One small spill for Frances, one giant leap towards being a competent eater.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and a certified pediatric obesity specialist at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at
Story tags » ParentingNutrition

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