How to Raise Healthy Eaters: Research Offers Help for Parents


How to Raise Healthy Eaters: Research Offers Help for Parents

29, October 2014 8:00 AM

  • Responsive feeding practices help parents raise healthy kids with minimal dinnertime drama As a parent, what’s your role?
  • How do you minimize power struggles while providing healthy meals for your family?
  • With all the conflicting health and nutrition information out there, are you confused about what to feed your child?

Parents often feel pressure to feed our kids the “right” foods and to control what they eat. As the mother of three daughters, I’ve had my share of picky eaters, power struggles and conflicting advice on how and what to feed them. Friends said one thing, I would read another, and the pediatrician would say something else about how to feed young children. To make matters worse, as a dietitian I knew EXACTLY what nutrients they were lacking when they wouldn’t eat something served at dinner!

I learned that what kids put in their mouths is one of the FEW things they can—and will—control. This sets up a conflict between parents and children which can lead to power struggles and eventually result in eating disorders or weight problems (either too high or too low) later in life. Having seen some college friends struggle with disordered eating, I wanted to protect my own children from this result.

Thankfully, there is a way to avoid these eating conflicts through a strategy called Responsive Feeding (RF). RF helps parents teach their kids positive and healthy eating habits from an early age, avoid power struggles, and most importantly, teaches kids how to have a healthy relationship with food and weight.

At a session recently held at the Food and Nutrition Conference and Exhibit (FNCE) in Atlanta, experts in nutrition and child feeding outlined three important goals for Responsive Feeding:

  1. Recognize the differences between YOUR responsibility as a parent of what, when and where to feed your child, and YOUR CHILD’S responsibility of whether and how much to eat.
  2. Strike a balance between providing the FAT and CALORIES needed for your child's growth and development, while reducing their risk of overweight/obesity. 
  3. Recognize the nutritional differences of beverages (water, juice, milk and milk alternatives) and make the best choices to meet your child's needs.

Balanced family meals as part of a healthy eating plan help parents raise healthy kidsResponsive feeding is based on Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility (DOR) concept. If used consistently, these principles will help your child develop long-term healthy eating habits and allow for culture, enjoyment, taste, creativity and other factors involved in eating. It took me a while, but I’m happy to report all of my daughters now have adopted healthy eating habits, show no signs of eating disorders and have no serious weight issues! It’s definitely worth the investment … and in fact, this method is far easier than the typical conflict at the dinner table when your kids don’t eat exactly what you want.

There are a host of resources that parents can access online and use right away to learn more about raising healthy kids. These online resources include how-to tips and even recorded presentations on how to raise a healthy eater, provide healthy meals and snacks and how to be a positive role model designed with parents in mind.

Lori Hoolihan, Ph.D., R.D.N.


Tags: family meals Healthy eating healthy eating for kids Lori Hoolihan


  • 4 years 93 days ago
    Absolutely! Please include a credit line of or Dairy Council of California. Thanks for spreading the word to help create healthy students.

  • Wendy West 4 years 93 days ago
    May we reprint this article in our eNewsletter that goes out to our teachers and clients in our UCCE four county area in the Central Sierra's (El dorado, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne.
    Thanks for your consideration --- great stuff!


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