Updated: Nov 22, 2022
My face burned as I watched my daughter at Thanksgiving dinner. She had taken 3 bites of sweet potatoes, and 2 bites of turkey, and was now sneaking her little hand over to grab her sister's dinner roll (since she had already finished the other 2 on her plate). Thoughts of failure flooded my mind: "what kind of mom lets her kid gorge on rolls while leaving meat and vegetables untouched?"
The Division of Responsibility
In my training as a Registered Dietitian, I learned a method for feeding children called "The Division of Responsibility."
The idea is that parents provide kids with healthy options and let kids choose how much (or whether) to eat. Kids eat as much as they want, or as little as they want, and parents DO NOT force them to eat (or not eat) in any way.
The "Division of Responsibility" was easy with my first daughter:
We gave her food.
She ate it.
It was harder with my second child:
We gave her food
She threw it at us
She asked for bread
Frustrating. Even with my Dietitian training, her eating made me anxious: especially at Thanksgiving, when (I felt like) all eyes were on me.
Nutrition in Dinner Rolls
I decided to research the nutrition in rolls to ease my worries. This table shows what I found:
TURKEY, (size of 1 hot dog)
ROLL (1 regular sized roll)
SWEET POTATO (1/4 cup)
GREEN BEAN (1/4 cup)
POTATO (1/4 cup mashed)
Are you as surprised as I am to see that a regular-sized dinner roll has more protein and iron than a 1.5 oz slice of turkey (1.5 oz is the size of a hot dog). Please note that a roll is bigger than a small piece of turkey, so weight for weight, the turkey probably has more protein than the roll.
But my daughter will eat 10 rolls. I'm lucky if she'll eat 2 bites of turkey.
My point? It's not the end of the world if your child loves bread. You can trust your child to eat what she needs for healthy growth.
Offer healthy foods, and your child will pick and choose from what is available to get the nutrition she needs. Thanks to enrichment and fortification (the adding of nutrients to foods), it's okay if she mostly chooses bread.
Can you live on bread alone? Of course not. We need a variety from every food group to stay healthy. But my main message is this: bread is not the enemy. AND....it's okay to let your child decide what to eat, especially at holiday meals when you feel like everyone is watching. Just don't let them steal anyone's dinner roll; that's just plain mean!
Are you interested in learning more about the division of responsibility?
Click here to read more. Then, ask your Family Advocate to schedule a home visit with our Registered Dietitian. She can meet with you one-on-one to discuss your child's eating and things you can do to make mealtime joyful.
P.S. Interested in what our dietitian is cooking for thanksgiving dinner?
Here's my menu:
turkey: sister-in-law is cooking it
crock pot mashed potatoes:https://therecipecritic.com/crockpot-mashed-potatoes/
fruit: pomegranates + mandarin oranges and applesauce
green beans: from a can
vegan pumpkin pie (so yummy, and LESS EXPENSIVE than regular pumpkin pie!): https://www.eatingbirdfood.com/vegan-pumpkin-pie/