“He is growing just fine. You have nothing to worry about….” You hear this but you KNOW everything is not fine!

Let me start by saying that the information that growth charts provide is important.

Insights from the Growth Chart

Growth charts give us a really good idea if a child is growing more or less as expected, regardless of whether that child is naturally small or large. A growth chart will tell us if a child is gaining weight fast enough, or perhaps too fast. A growth chart can answer a few questions but can’t tell us anything about your child’s developing relationship with food.

Let me also say that weight is a really poor predictor of picky eating and feeding problems. Children who only eat crackers and bananas may still look like they are “growing fine” on a growth chart. Picky or selective eaters and children with feeding challenges come in all weights, shapes and sizes.

Growth charts don’t tell us WHY things have gone wrong. WHY matters a lot.

Unless there are medical conditions or medications in the picture, children (especially young ones) are good at eating the right amount of food for growth. Most kids have a pretty good understanding of when they are hungry, when they are full, and how much to eat.

However, sometimes the WAY we feed children can actually interfere with their natural sense of hunger and fullness.

Some examples:

  • Encouraging children to finish their plate
  • Restricting how much children can eat
  • Eating in front of the TV or tablet
  • Allowing to children snack all day
  • Pressuring a child to eat
  • Rewarding a child for eating
  • Not providing meals at regular times

What makes this really hard is that, as a parent, if you think that your child is gaining weight too fast, your first instinct may be to restrict. What does that do? Usually makes children want to eat even more. Is that really helpful? No.

The other side of the coin is the child that is apparently gaining weight too slowly. What do we instinctively want to do? Pressure to eat more. Again, this does not work.

The child that is not growing predictably may need support from a health professional that can help you unravel all the factors at play for your child and works respectfully with the WHOLE family to understand the feeding dynamics.

Eat happy!
Bonnie Searle
Accredited Practising Dietitian

Closing Thoughts: Emphasizing a Healthy Relationship with Food

Side note: If you have been told “He’s fine, he is tracking along his weight percentiles – you have nothing to worry about!” but feeding your child is very stressful, do not take no for an answer. Growth charts don’t tell the whole story.

A child who is stressed around food (or stressing you out around food) may be growing well but he is almost certainly not developing a healthy relationship with food, and that matters. Get a second opinion or get in touch with the Kids Dig Food team!

image of unhappy kid faceplanting on the sandwich on his plate

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