Learn how to put simple and smart intuitive eating tips into practice with real world advice from mom of 5, Melissa of Bless This Mess Please. Her approach allows kids to learn to have a healthy relationship with food without guilt, shame, or the need for us parents to micromanage intake. If you haven’t tried it, it’s a breath of fresh air!
Intuitive Eating Tips
Learning how to guide your kids as they grow and develop food preferences can often feel like a big challenge, but using the framework of Intuitive Eating can help a lot. This feeding approach teaches honoring our hunger, respecting our fullness, making peace with food, honoring feelings without using food, exercising to move our bodies rather than to burn calories and more—no guilt, shame, or bartering required.
Since this approach to feeding kids, especially picky eaters, can be confusing to put into action, we turned to mom of 5, blogger, and recipe developer Melissa Griffiths of Bless This Mess Please. I’m so happy to share some of her awesome advice!
#1 Serve One Meal with Separate Components
Tacos with the toppings on the side. Pasta served plain with sauce and toppings separate. Serve one meal in components so each person at the table can pick and choose what they’d like to eat. This is a great tips since it allows both kids and adults to personalize their plates!
#2 Involve the Kids
Bring them to the store or out into the garden. Have them help prep something simple for dinner. Put one in charge of clean up duty and allow them to delegate to the other family members. You can keep the involvement simple, but having them around and in the mix of food prep and procurement away from the table can inspire interest and curiosity about food.
#3 Introduce them to Diverse Food Experiences
Consider trying a new ethnic restaurant or making a new recipe together at home. Make food a fun experience—not just something they have to do before they go off to play/shower/do their homework.
#4 Fill in Meals with Things They Like
Melissa makes a lot of applesauce each fall, so she often puts out a jar of it with dinner. This acts as a safety net and gives the kids something to eat if they don’t like the main dish. Simple foods like cut up fresh fruit, bread, cheese, or a favorite veggie can serve this role too.
#5 Have Simple Snacks Available
Allowing the kids to access healthy foods for themselves through a designated snack drawer (or bin or shelf) can be a nice way to let them have some power within the boundaries you set (because you get to decide what’s available to them). We all have different hunger patterns, so this way, the kids can tune into theirs all by themselves.
“I have a pantry drawer and a fridge drawer so it’s a fun way to try new things. I’ll put new things in their drawer and I don’t think they would have tried it if it wasn’t in the drawer and available to them,” Melissa says.
#6 Set the Kids Up For Success
Surround them with healthy foods. Model food enjoyment. Show that it makes you happy to eat and share meals with them. If you can take the guilt and stress out of your own eating, you can set them up to have a healthy longterm relationship with food too.
#7 Be a Safe Place to Communicate Food Preferences
Maybe one of your kids loves guacamole and another can’t stand it. One likes to dip his tacos in ketchup, which makes you cringe. Remember that we all have unique preferences and it’s OKAY. Trust that the more your kids can tune into theirs, the better off they’ll be as they grow.
#8 Avoid Short Order Cooking
There’s nothing wrong with making the kids a separate meal if you want to, but you should never feel like you can’t do one family dinner. Melissa has so many awesome recipes for the whole family—that she surrounds with simple sides to ensure that everyone at the table has something to eat. This approach teaches the value of sharing food as it allows for preferences.
#9 Close the Kitchen at Times
Melissa likes to pack an extra bento box for the kids while she’s putting away leftovers in case someone is hungry before bed. This keeps some boundaries in place—because she’s deciding what food is available and then the kitchen is closed for the night—but allows the kids access to food if they are hungry.
#10 Dessert isn’t a Reward for Eating Dinner
Food rewards can be a little tricky to navigate, but Melissa recommends avoiding treat foods as rewards for eating “regular” foods and just letting food be food. You still get to decide which foods to serve when, but after that, you can step back and let the kids decide what of it to eat. (Read more on this approach known as the Division of Responsibility here.)
Thanks so much to Melissa for sharing her tips! You can find all of her delicious recipes here on her website.
For More Intuitive Eating Tips
Listen to learn more about putting the kids in charge in the kitchen, about Melissa’s awesome garden and homestead, and how she nourishes herself despite being a busy mom in our latest episode of the Comfort Food podcast.