Next month I am teaching the class—Helping Kids Who Overeat— at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City.

June 5th, 6:30-9:30. Here’s the registration information.

Most of the parents I come into contact with are concerned about getting their children to eat more food.  And they are not alone.  Read Are Pediatricians Hurting Your Toddler’s Eating Habits?

But there’s a whole contingent of parents out there who have the opposite problem: They’re concerned about getting their children to eat less.

The research literature is pretty clear: Reducing kids’ access to food isn’t the way to go.

Most people don’t resort to drastic measures like the mom who recounted in Vogue’s April issue the story of putting her 7 year old on a diet.

America went crazy in response to this story—read this review or Google the story and you’ll see what I mean— but I bet if you parent an overeater you can sympathize, even if you wouldn’t follow suit.

Childhood obesity is a genuine problem in America. The health implications for overweight kids are severe (read The New York Times article Obesity Linked Diabetes in Children Resists Treatment) and the pressure to get kids to lose weight is tremendous.

(By the way, and I’ve said this before, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we spend the first few years of our kids’ lives trying to get them to eat more and the rest of their lives trying to get them to eat less, but that’s a point for another post.)

You can influence how much your kids eat without resorting to drastic measures. Simply change how your child eats.

This is a habits-based approach and research shows it’s pretty effective.

Brian Wanink makes the following recommendations in his book, Mindless Eating:

  • See if before you eat it.  When people pre-plate their food they eat 14% less than when they take smaller amounts and go back for seconds (or thirds). Leave the serving dishes in the kitchen.
  • Instead of eating directly out of a package or box, put snacks in a separate dish and leave the box in the kitchen.
  • See it while you eat it.  Leave the evidence of your eating in plain view.  For instance, leave empty soda cans where you can see them and don’t clear the table mid-way through the meal.
  • Use small serving bowls and containers and repackage jumbo boxes into smaller bags.  The smaller the serving container, the less you’ll serve yourself.
  • Eat from smaller plates. It will make serving sizes look bigger.
  • Drink from tall, slender glasses instead of short, wide ones. You’ll pour yourself less.
  • Put fruits and vegetables front and center. Leave leftovers and sweets and treats out of sight.
  • Decrease variety at meals to increase “sensory specific satiety.”
  • Snack only at the table and on a clean plate.  This makes it less convenient, and therefore less tempting to eat between meals.
  • When eating with others, try to be the last person to start eating. You’ll spend less time at the trough since most people keep eating until the last person finishes.

People who make these changes reduce how much they eat without even noticing it.

That’s because, Wansink says, we can reduce our food consumption by 20% without feeling it. But try to eliminate 30% and people start to feel deprived.

There are other environmental changes you can make to change what your children eat.  Read Feng Shui for Food 

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~ 

Source: Wansink, B., 2006. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. New York: Bantam Books.