I have already summarized Chapters 1 and 2 of Ellyn Satter’s Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family here. Below I will briefly summarize Chapters 3, “Honor Your Appetite.” Hang on to your socks! This is radical! (Some of this stuff is taken verbatim from Satter’s book.)
Honor Your Appetite
We are often afraid that if we eat what we want when we want in whatever amount we want, that we will not have a stopping point. We are afraid that if we are encouraged to eat foods that we enjoy, that we will become bottomless pits! But appetite is a natural and life-giving inclination that can be satisfied. It is normal to get enough and to stop eating, even highly enjoyable food. If you pay attention when you eat, you will notice that at some point the food stops tasting as good. Certainly there are some people who can’t get enough, but they are people who have been denied food or restricted themselves.
In order to satisfy your appetite, you have to find the food you are eating appealing and it has to taste good. For most people, eating an entire bag of rice cakes will not satisfy their appetite. Below are guidelines to help you enhance your enjoyment of food and allow you to get enough of even wonderful-tasting food.
- Give yourself permission to eat.
- Eat regularly
- Have enough food to have leftovers.
- Eat food that you enjoy. If the main dish is rather lackluster, have a side that you love.
- Tune in to yourself. Take a moment to relax before eating.
- Pay attention to your mouth and to yourself, not the plate. Transfer your attention from what you will eat next to what you are eating now.
- Give yourself time to eat. Taking time to pay attention to your experience of eating lets you feel satisfied.
The key to nutritional excellence is variety growing out of genuine food enjoyment. Consuming too much of anything, even healthy foods, can mess with your body chemistry and make you sick. Liking the food you eat is critical, but you will not eat the same things all of the time because we naturally seek out variety. We tire of even our favorite foods and eat alternatives.
You actually absorb more nutrients from foods that you enjoy while eating! Even if a food is healthy for you, if you are not enjoying it while you eat it, studies show that you do not absorb as much of the vitamins and minerals in it. Research tells us that we do best with familiar foods, but it also tells us that we seek out variety. Sounds like a contradiction, right? It isn’t. What we need is predictability in what we eat to free us up to seek novelty and take chances in our food selection.
When it comes to feeding children, Satter recommends having meals as a family with a variety of foods offered at each meal. Parents should make sure that there is at least one food on the table that each child likes, even if it is bread and butter. Then it is the responsibility of the children to choose what and how much they want to eat. She says it’s important to reassure children that they don’t have to eat anything they don’t want to, that they have to be polite when they turn down a food, and that the kitchen is closed after dinner (unless the parents offer a snack before bedtime).
Thinking about my children not having to eat foods that they don’t like made me raise my eyebrow suspiciously. But Satter’s experience shows that children who are certain that they will have something that they like to eat at a meal are more likely to experiment with novel foods. In fact, the first night I put bread and butter on the table and told my kids that they could have as much of any food on the table that they wanted, my very picky 6-year-old asked to try avocado for the first time! It took everything in me to not stand up and cheer!
Up next, Chapter 4: Eat As Much As You Want. Really.