Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Child obesity: I blame Dr. Seuss.

Broccoli here, broccoli there? 
I don’t want it.
Will you eat your broccoli for me? Dora? Boots?
Will you eat broccoli if I give you dessert?
I don’t like broccoli.
You can’t have the dessert until you eat broccoli!
No TV tonight until you try it.
You will sit here until you’re through.
You will like broccoli if it is the last thing I do!

I have fond memories reading Dr. Seuss books and now read them to my daughter. She always laughs in delight when Mr. Reluctant finally tries the green eggs and ham. I wonder how many parents consider this book a child’s book or child’s nutrition guidebook.

We all know how the real Green Eggs and Ham ends: a reluctant naysayer takes a nibble and rejoices for err in his food ways. He loves this previously avoided food and will always have a special place in his heart for the persuasive Sam-I-Am. If only life had  a similar fate; instead reality shows Sam-I-Am’s tactics backfire. 

I often hear concerned parents describe plights to get their children to eat certain foods. Usually these foods are ones considered the healthiest: veggies, fruit, milk, some meats. Just like Sam-I-Am, they try every strategy to manipulate a child’s intake including begging, pleading, threatening, and bribing. I wish they would try more ignoring.

Research shows the more a person tries to manipulate a child’s food intake, the more likely said child will become overweight. In other words, bribing and threatening teaches a child to overeat. 

Trust your child will get what she needs with the choices you provide. When you feel yourself trying to manipulate her choices, stop! You’re sending a mixed message and harming her food relationship. 

Backed by research, Sam-I-Am would be more successful this way:

You don’t like Green Eggs and Ham?
These are your choices for lunch today
Along with bread and milk.
If you don’t want them, that’s ok.
That is your choice.


Marsha @ Green Mountain at Fox Run said...

Great post, Julie. My kids are grown now, but I raised them with the same approach you encourage. Daughter loves all foods, the healthier, the better (as long as they taste good). Son was always a very picky eater, and now that he's older, he's coming around on his on. I wonder how much longer it would have taken him if I had fought him about his eating.

Julie Duffy Dillon said...

Thanks for the comment Marsha. Reading it affirmed my goals with picky eaters: not to get them to eat more in the moment rather willingly choose more variety as an adult. Your family is proof that stepping aside while providing variety keeps their personal feeding relationship healthy.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr