Explore Your Feeding Style During National Nutrition Month
By Mary Kathryn Poole, MPH, program director of Let’s Move Pittsburgh | Photograph from Adam Milliron
March is National Nutrition Month, an annual holiday established by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This year’s theme, “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” aims to empower people to make healthier lifestyle choices.
National Nutrition Month can be a perfect time to have a conversation with your family about improving dietary habits. However, as a parent, it can be challenging to encourage children to try (and like) foods that they have not been exposed to before.
Last week, we hosted the third installment of our 5-2-1-0 Speaker Series, which featured a presentation by Janine E. Jones, a registered dietitian and UPMC Health Plan health coach. Included in her presentation was advice on feeding styles to encourage healthier choices among children. Her valuable suggestions may be helpful to you and your family as you celebrate National Nutrition Month.
Jones spoke with us about the four feeding styles that parents and caregivers use with children. These styles include: authoritarian, uninvolved or negligent, indulgent or permissive, and authoritative. Parents who use an authoritarian style for meals have strict rules about their child’s eating habits that are not influenced by the child’s needs. For example, a child may be forced to eat the rest of his/her meal even if he/she is no longer hungry. Authoritarian parents may also use food as punishment.
The next style, uninvolved or negligent, describes parents who have little to no rules about feeding. Meals are typically sporadic and do not consider the child’s needs. Parents with an indulgent or permissive feeding style are sensitive to the child’s needs, but they do not establish rules about eating. The fourth style, authoritative, balances rules and the child’s needs in a positive manner. Authoritative parents ensure that meals are structured and that children are encouraged, but not forced, to make healthy choices. Children are given choices, but the choices are primarily healthy ones. Food is not used as a punishment or reward, but rather children receive positive reinforcement through compliments and coaching.
Studies have shown that the authoritative style is linked to many positive behaviors in children. Children are more likely to have a balanced diet, regulate hunger, try new foods, and have a positive relationship with food. Across all the feeding styles, the authoritative style is also associated with the healthiest weight status in children.
As you celebrate National Nutrition Month, aim to take an authoritative style to meal times to promote healthy habits for the entire family!
This article is an effort of Let’s Move Pittsburgh’s 5-2-1-0 initiative to help Pittsburgh’s youth practice 5-2-1-0 — 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 hours or less of recreational screen time, 1 hour or more of physical activity, and 0 sugary drinks and more water — every day!
Learn more at letsmovepittsburgh.org/5210. Let’s Move Pittsburgh, a collaborative program of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, provides Southwestern Pennsylvania’s children and their caregivers with the knowledge, tools, and support needed to make nutritious food choices and lead active lifestyles. 5-2-1-0 is made possible with the generous support of UPMC Health Plan and Hillman Foundation. Learn more at letsmovepittsburgh.org and on Facebook and Twitter.