My face burned with embarrassment as I watched my 3 year old sneak her little hand over to steal her sister's dinner roll. She'd already finished the other 3 rolls on her plate while leaving the turkey and veggies untouched.
Thoughts of failure flooded my mind: "what kind of mom lets her kid gorge on rolls at Thanksgiving while leaving meat and vegetables untouched?"
What will everyone think? Should I force her to at least take a bite of her vegetables?
Then I remembered my secret "calm down" weapon: The Division of Responsibility.
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 habits 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 (the percentages are the percent of the daily need your child will get from that food). Nutrition info obtained from the USDA nutrition calculator.
TURKEY, (size of 1 hot dog)
ROLL (1 large dinner 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.
Want to read another great article on how to deal with picky eaters at holiday meals? Read this post: https://www.realmomnutrition.com/picky-eaters-at-holidays/
P.S. Interested in what our dietitian is cooking for thanksgiving dinner?
My family is doing most of the cooking, but I'm bringing a few interesting things to share:
Wild Rice Stuffing (gluten free + vegan)
NO-PIE pumpkin pie (gluten free)
I make this about once a week for my kids for after school snack. It's a little healthier than pie because....it has no crust! I cut the sugar in half and my kids devour the entire thing in 1 sitting.