5 Types of parent feeding styles. Which are you?


As parents we may not realize that how we respond to our kids’ challenging eating habits can either make them more picky or help them summon the courage to try something new like ultimate veggie burgers.

Like you, I have a devoted picky eater. They start out rejecting foods they once upon a time loved like peanut butter sandwiches and unsweetened fruit sauce, but now they are more often than not gagging at the thought of trying a new recipe, for once, like your lentil shepherd’s pie. They often refuse vegetables and insist on eating spoonfuls of tzatziki instead of dipping their broccoli in it.

Dina Rose, a sociologist, parent educator and author of It’s Not About the Broccoli: Three Habits to Teach Your Kids for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating talks about different parenting styles and how they affect the way parents feed their kids.

1. Hunger Avoiders

Hunger avoiders worry about their kids feeling the slightest bit hungry.  You’re a hunger avoider if you do any of the following when your kids refuse meals/snacks that you’ve provided:  

  • You offer your kids a food that you know they’ll eat

  • You pressure your kids by saying things like “it’s good for you” or “just take 3 more bites”, and then offer them a food that you know they’ll eat

  • You never go through this situation because you always provide your kids a meal or snack you know they eat  

The Consequence: Hunger avoiders turn their kids into snackaholics.  

The Solution: Enter structured meal and snack times to help build up your kids’ appetite.  They won’t eat your homemade chili if they’ve filled up on sweets. Kids have no reason to eat at mealtimes if they’re constantly snacking.

2. It’s-Just-A-Phasers

It’s-Just-A-Phasers (IJP) believe kids will grow out of throwing their food, begging for pasta every night or only eating scrambled eggs cooked by mommy.  

The Consequence: Riding it out only allows these behaviours to become habits and you know how hard it is to change habits!   

The Solution: If you’re an IJP, use your kids’ developmental stage, for example, they ask for the same food over and over, to teach them to rotate their favourite foods, for example, allowing them to have pasta, just not 2 days in a row.  By doing this you’re teaching them the habit of eating a variety of foods.

3. Nutritionistas

Nutritionistas overlook the “bad” nutrients like sugar as long as their kids are eating the “good” nutrients like calcium.  They offer healthy foods like whole grain cereal and fruit, or homemade banana muffins and milk, but if their kids refuse, the Nutritionista will often settle on less healthy foods because, for instance, the boxed chicken nuggets have some protein, the Halo Top ice cream has extra protein and the colourful cereal is whole grain.

The Consequence: Nutrionistas teach their kids if they refuse healthy foods long enough, parents will eventually serve them their favourite foods which can end up being a very limited diet of mediocre foods that are marketed as “healthy”.

The Solution: Offer foods with a bit of nutrition like chocolate milk, and whole grain sweeter cereals as a treat food, as opposed to treating it like an everyday alternative to its more nutritious 1st option.  


4. Nurturers

Nurturers believe that food equals love (that’s me!).  Nurturers feel good when they feed others. From making a homemade meal for their family to seeing their kids’ faces light up at an ice cream cone makes them feel amazing.  Some nurturers  believe that treats are a big part of a happy childhood.

The Consequence: Loading kids up with treats to express love usually means these kids eat more unhealthy foods and teaches them the wrong habits.  

The Solution: Keep sweets and treats as occasional goodies!

5. The Food Police

And I assure you that dietitians are not badge-carrying members!  Food policing can show up in different ways:

  • Only allowing your kids to eat homemade foods

  • Restricting less healthy processed foods (cookies, chips), pop or juice

  • Pressuring your kids to eat healthy foods even when they resist

The Consequence: Mealtime becomes a battleground, kids may become more picky as they grow up if they are forced to eat foods they don’t like.   And kids won’t ever learn to eat treats in moderation, this may lead to binge eating which is a whole other blog for another day.

The Solution: Loosen up on the pressure, give your kids a little more control over what they’re eating and you’ll more often than not find that your kids may start to try a few more veggies, and not eat too many sweets and treats.

Whether you’ve identified with one of these parenting styles or not, the point of this blog was not to make you feel crummy, I’m a true Nurturer and have had Nutritionista and Hunger Avoider days, I’ll admit it.  Rose points out these parenting “hang-ups”, as she calls them, to help us parents reflect on them. Notice the struggle so you can conquer it!

Allison Little