Friday, May 29, 2009

"good" eater vs "bad" eater

M and I were at a restaurant for lunch over the weekend. It amazes me since I have been working in childhood feeding how much I notice comments about food and eating directed at children. 

We ordered mac-n-cheese (I think St. Clair Broiler uses Kraft so its not the gloopy mess like in most restaurants which M won't eat,) broccoli and ice-cream- and yes, we ordered ice cream with the meal. (See past posts for explanation of dessert strategies...)
After repeating twice to the waitress, that indeed I wanted the ice-cream with the meal, we settled in for some coloring and chatting.
We were eating nicely, starting with mac-n-cheese, some broccoli, some ice-cream, some mac-n-cheese... The manager came over and asked M if she was eating all her broccoli, and praised her eating. 
The mom at the table behind us made several loud comments to her young toddler about how M was such a "good" eater, and "why can't you be a good eater, like that girl?" 

I can't imagine if we commented as much about what we as adults ate...

Imagine how you would feel if the manager asked if you ate all your broccoli... Or your wife pushed you to eat "two more bites" even if you just told her you were full or didn't want to eat... Or if she told you you had had enough when you wanted more mashed potatoes or salad or pork chop...Or if a waitress tried to coax you into ordering something more healthy, or asked three times if you really needed that glass of milk, or soda, or baked potato... Or passing on a meal altogether because you'd enjoyed coffee and cake with a friend after work and being told you were a "bad" eater... 

(And then, somewhere between preschool and middle-school the definitions of "good" and "bad" eater flip, and the "good" eater is the one who eats less and the "bad" eater is the hearty eater. But that's a topic for another day.) 

Pay attention to how you talk to and about kids and food. How many comments do others make about your kids' eating or size, how often are kids prodded to eat more or eat less? How many words of judgement like "good" or "bad" or "picky" are you hearing or using to label your child? (As in "Lilly is my good eater, Bobby is my picky one.") 

Do your job of putting food on the table, and let children do theirs (deciding how much and if to eat.) When you talk about food, maybe ask, "What was your favorite part of dinner?" or "Wasn't that pie yummy, and the beans too?" Then talk about something else. Before you say something to your child, or another child, ask if you would feel comfortable saying  it to an adult. If not, it might not need to be said.

FYI, for the dessert-with-meal skeptics,  M ate all the mac-n-cheese, half the broccoli and half the ice-cream.  Later she went on to enjoy a small amount of yogurt and fruit for snack (she said her tummy wasn't very hungry) and asparagus, steak, salad and rice for dinner.


  1. Your point about "acceptable" comments made about eating to children versus comments made to adults is a great point. It makes me laugh to think of saying, for example, to my husband, "why can't you eat all of your salad like that man at the table next to us; what a good eater HE is!"

    As an adult, I have had comments made to me by staff at restaurants if I don't eat all or most of my meal. I have had managers come up to me and ask if something was wrong with the food; it feels a little uncomfortable, like I did something wrong. Just because the portion served is a certain size, doesn't mean that I should or want eat that much. The same is true for children.