May 14th, 2020

Episode 26 - Verena Dickson

Growing curious, mindful eaters

If you’re a parent you will almost certainly have come across plenty of advice about feeding children, some of it from professionals and some from well-meaning family and friends. Some of that advice will probably have been conflicting and your best efforts to follow it may have left you feeling confused, frustrated and guilty. There is no more primal urge than for a parent to want to nourish their child and when that is challenging we can feel anxious and inadequate. Sometimes feelings of hopelessness can lead to us shouting at and nagging our kids with the result that mealtimes can become fraught and tense. 

If that is you Verena Dickson has plenty of tips to help change all that. She is a registered nutritionist specialising in child nutrition and is the founder of Kinder Nutrition. Her aim is to dispel some common myths and replace some misplaced practices relating to children’s eating habits so that children develop a natural, relaxed relationship with food. 

Verena has a very gentle respectful approach to feeding children that moves away from a coercive model to one based on enthusing children about food and trusting them to take in the nutrients their bodies need. Some of these ideas are very different to how most adults were raised. 

Listen to this episode with Verena if you want to learn: 

  • Why it works to shift away from WHAT kids eat to establishing more positive feeding and behaviour based strategies, to raise curious, mindful eaters. In other words, we need to relax on WHAT foods we provide, while focusing on HOW we feed the family
  • Why bribing doesn’t work and in fact any form of pressure, including threats or even over the top praise, backfires
  • Why we shouldn’t try to hide vegetables in food
  • How it works better to just present healthy foods and let the children decide what and how much to eat
  • How it matters that the adults be seen to be enjoying the food themselves
  • About the difference in tastes as children mature, particularly bitterness
  • About presenting food in many different ways, trying different sauces or different textures, not to disguise the food but to make it taste good
  • How difficult it is for parents to move away from the approach to food we were brought up with and how learned behaviours can overwrite our bodies’ natural cues
  • About the Division of Responsibility in Feeding and how it works to solve many different kinds of eating challenges
  • Why it matters to give children independence about food and make them responsible for what they eat so that they listen to their own fullness and hunger cues
  • About the research that shows that children are in fact very good at self-regulating
  • How it helps to take longer view of what your child is eating, not just looking at what they eat in one meal
  • How to avoid power struggles at the dinner table
  • How having regular family meals can make all the difference both to children’s eating habits but for social skills and even academic outcomes
  • How getting older kids involved in the planning and cooking process can help them become more interested in food
  • How to cultivate a kinder attitude towards bodies, whether our own or anyone else’s, especially in the language we use around food and bodies, focusing more on positive qualities and the body’s functionality than appearance and exposing children to diverse ideas about body types 

And as usual we finish with our SUMs. It’s important, now more than ever, to not let anxiety drown out joy. To help us be grateful for the small things in life we are celebrating some Surprising Uplifting Moments, some good things coming out of this crisis. Verena shares what she has appreciated personally about this time in lockdown and the fact that the families she works with have all appreciated having more time to eat together. Verena also shares her top tip for raising happy, confident eaters. 




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Posted in: Body image , Family meals , Nutrition




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