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The Best Books to Help Raise Healthy Eaters

As a parent, you know no two kids are alike. Many parents will say their first kid was a great eater and their second was completely different. Nothing may have changed (that they’re aware of) but the second kid has completely different eating habits, patterns, likes, dislikes and behaviors at mealtime. Because of this, I get asked quite often by parents for the best books to help raise healthy eaters. To bring greater awareness to the behavioral nutrition patterns of kids, here are four of my go-to child feeding books:

1. Child of Mine by Ellyn Satter

Ellyn Satter is the matriarch of child feeding and nutrition. I read this book in 2013 and again when my daughter was born in 2017. I still consult it, quite regularly. Before my daughter was even a glimmer in my eye, I remember feeling anxious over how I would feed any future child (crazy, I know). From my observations of other parents, meal time really seemed like a struggle. To take away meal time pressures, Satter developed the “Division of Responsibility“. In brief, the division of responsibility lays down mealtime “laws” stating that parents decide the “what” “when” and “where” of mealtime. Kids decide “whether” and “how much.”

If you’re an expectant parent, if you’re a parent who struggles with mealtime, if you’re a grandparent who is involved with feeding your grandkids, from gestation through adolescence this is a childhood dietitian’s go-to book.

2. Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

My husband and I actually listened to Bringing Up Bebe together via Audible on a car trip earlier this year. It’s been on my list for a while and I’m so happy that I finally got to it! Through her research and experiences in France, Pamela Druckerman highlights the distinct cultural differences in the way we raise our children. Parenting styles are key here, and she and showcases how French parenting seems to have a certain “je ne sais quoi” that Americans lack. French kids and parents don’t deal much with picky eating and nagging meal time behaviors. French kids, from a very young age are involved in meal prep and cooking as well. They’re raised to respect food and the world around them.

I found this book to be fascinating. It made me want to live in France and research this French parenting paradox even more. Just shifting the way we approach situations with our kids and assuming a more authoritative parenting style can make a big difference in the way our kids respond at meal time. Bringing Up Bebe is also an enjoyable read – Druckerman has a good sense of humor.

3. Fearless Feeding by Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen

Fearless Feeding is the “how-to” book of child feeding. It’s another book I read back in 2013 and revisited when my daughter was born. It served as my bible when my daughter started solids. I love this book so much because the authors provide meal plan ideas and recipes for solid-starters through the toddler and kid years. They also help navigate potential food allergies.

Jill Castle came to speak in one of my nutrition classes a few years ago. We were discussing developing a healthy relationship with food. I remember Jill talking about making mealtime fun and let your baby get as messy as they want. Being a bit of neat-freak, my mind was blown, but I trusted her on that one. I let my daughter squish, pat, experiment and share her purees with the cat. She is being raised with an understanding that food is fun, delicious and mealtimes are special. Along with Child of Mine, this is another childhood dietitian’s go-to book.

4. Kid Food

I just finished reading Kid Food by Bettina Elias Siegel. This book was released in 2019 so it’s perfectly up-to-date on the trials and tribulations parents face as we feed our kids in an overly processed world. Go to the grocery store with your kid. If you didn’t notice the amount of kid-targeted food marketing before, you surely will now. Marketers aim at kids because they know parents will be suckered into buying some “fruity” cereal or gummy, tooth-rotting food-like substance. From the grocery store to the school cafeteria, we are all facing an uphill battle to get a better quality of food for our kids. Bettina highlights all of this in Kid Food and on her blog, The Lunch Tray.

I met Bettina about a year ago when she came to visit my office at Teachers College. She was fascinating to speak with because she has a keen lawyer’s eye on the kid food situation. One thing we spoke about was kid menus. I have had a gripe with kid menus for quite a while. Kid menus always have the same staple chicken fingers, fries, hamburgers, cheeseburgers or spaghetti. Our kids are being raised on these foods and not given the opportunity to expand their palates and explore other foods. They’re given a menu with foods that are made to be “kid-friendly”. Well, in my opinion, these kid menus are a part of picky eating habits and the prevalence of childhood obesity.

If you’re interested in kid food policy and how parents and educators can work together to feed our children less-processed foods, you should order up a copy of Kid Food.

So those are four of my favorite books to help raise healthy eaters. Here’s what I am looking forward to reading next…

French Kids Eat Everything and Getting to Yum by Karen Le Billon. I’ll keep you all posted when I do!

Are there any good childhood nutrition books you’ve read? Or, any good food-related books in general? Let me know in the comments below! Hope you’re all doing well and staying safe and healthy. Sending lots of love!

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