PEI

How are you feeding your toddler? Maritime researchers want to know

A research project in the Maritime provinces is asking parents about the eating habits of families with toddlers to explore whether messages about new strategies are reaching them.

‘Keep mealtimes happy’

Provide healthy options and healthy eating will follow, according to current practices. (Mcimage/Shutterstock)

A research project in the Maritime provinces is asking parents about the eating habits of families with toddlers to explore whether messages about new strategies are reaching them.

Misty Rossiter, a professor in the department of applied human sciences at UPEI, is part of the joint project with Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax. A short online survey has already been filled out by hundreds of parents.

The survey asks questions about responsive feeding, currently considered best practice for getting toddlers to develop a healthy relationship with food.

"Responsive feeding gives a little bit of autonomy back to the child to decide when they're full or when they're hungry," said Rossiter.

"Responsive feeding practices are also around sitting with the children at the table and role modelling some good feeding behaviours. Allowing children to serve themselves, which sometimes can be an interesting experience, but also sets up sort of healthy practices for later in life."

It's not necessarily easy

Some older style practices are out, such as insisting on finishing everything on your plate, offering dessert as a reward, or making a fuss if a child goes through a phase of wanting to eat nothing but carrots.

Rossiter acknowledges that not worrying too much about a balanced diet can be a challenge.

Rossiter says she understands letting your child take charge of their eating can be stressful. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

"That is extremely difficult, especially if you've got a child who maybe only prefers a certain amount of foods or a certain number of foods," she said.

"It's really important to keep the conversation light and to keep mealtimes happy."

Rossiter noted Canada's new food guide includes information not just on what children should be eating, but also about how children should be offered food. The job of caregivers, she said, is to provide healthy options. The current thinking is that eventually healthy eating will follow.

The survey is anonymous and takes about 15 minutes to complete. It closes on Monday.

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With files from Island Morning

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