Can these five rules save you from mealtime meltdowns - for good?

Tired of unwanted food served at unwanted times ending up all over the floor (or you?). Maybe the ‘Unfooding’ movement is for you…

From the very first moment we become mothers, we are tasked with the incredibly important job of feeding our child. Our life revolves around preparing feeds, assessing when solids are needed and then progress to structuring meals and teaching kids important lessons about food. Now experts are questioning whether feeding our children in this way is the right way to go.

There is a new wave of thinking that suggests ‘unfooding’ is the only way to raise healthy children. What is unfooding? Unfooding is a philosophy whereby children are allowed to control their own eating habits. ‘Unfooders’ believe that parents who control their child’s eating habits are harming their health, much in the same way that advocates for ‘Unschooling‘ believe that the formal education system actively discourages learning.

What are the rules of Unfooding?

1. There are no set mealtimes

2. Eating at the dinner table is optional

3. Children get to choose what they eat

4. Children get to choose when they eat

5. They have unlimited access to junk food

It seems like the opposite of the advice parents have been hearing for the longest time. We’ve been advised to limit junk food, to structure meal times into three square meals and two snacks, to only eat at the dinner table, to discuss with them the best way to eat.

It sounds a bit nuts, but consider this: When a baby is born they are fed on demand. If they are hungry, we breast or bottle feed them. Normally this takes on some sort of structure but as the baby gets older and hungrier we adjust to them. Then, suddenly, once they are fully weaned, we begin to tell them when they should be hungry. We tell them when and how they should eat. We stop listening to what they want and often the unwanted food served at an unwanted time ends up on the floor or smeared all over the high chair. So perhaps there is something to the Unfooding movement. Perhaps they are onto something.

As an experiment, stop preparing meals for a day and see what happens. Choose a day when you will be at home with your children. When they get up, dress them, then wait until they are hungry and let them choose what to eat. You can still positively influence their choices by making healthy foods available and placing them at eye level in the fridge and the pantry. Then see what happens.

Most children won’t overeat. Kids know how to eat when left to their own devices. They eat whatever they want when they are hungry, then simply stop eating when they are full. Isn’t this the diet advice adults are given to achieve optimum weight and health?

To find out more about the unfooding movement read My Child Won’t Eat by Carlos Gonzales.

Does Unfooding sound like the answer to mealtime meltdowns? Or just a free-pass for kids to eat badly?