Nature works in amazing ways. Our young children actually know how much to eat (which is more than a lot of adults do, because society has taught us to ignore our inner cues on satiety and hunger).
Our babies and toddlers are smarter than that: they know what food they need and how much. But our mealtimes get messed up when we parents start to intervene and put pressure on our littles by saying “You need to eat some more”, “You can’t be done already”, or “Finish your plate, then you can have dessert!”.
Without paying attention to it, our young eaters automatically know how to eat in accordance with their needs.
Intuitive eating is the ability to feel and act on hunger and satiety cues. And usually that’s what we hope our children will learn when they grow older. But the thing is: they know already when they are young. Our job is to trust them with that and reinforce that intuitive knowledge.
How to do this?
- accept when they say no thank you (in words or by turning away their head when you offer them food)
- verbalize that when they say “no”, it’s because they’re paying attention to their inner cues: “Okay, so it looks like you’re saying "no thank you" now. I think your tummy must be full then.”
- don’t shame them for picking only certain things on the plate (even if it's one thing out of what you're serving). When you serve food you can vouch for, your child is free to pick whatever he wants from what you’re serving.
Intuitive eaters are usually healthier eaters, so we need to start trusting our little ones' cues.