If you've asked me for a book recommendation, I'm finally getting back to you! Here's a list of the little compasses I rely on whenever some eating 'ish leaves me lost and confused. (Yes! Even nutrition 'experts' need a little reassurance about their approach sometimes.) The beauty of these books is they're great for parents as well as pediatric providers. They offer practical tips and share the theory, framework, and science behind them, which allows for extrapolating to all kinds of situations. Read on to learn more about the kid-focused books nutritionists trust ….
Fearless Feeding by Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobson
Best for: Getting Straight to the Point!
This book is broken up into chapters by age, letting you dig into the ‘ish that you’re dealing with NOW. Handy, easy-to-read reference charts help identify which nutrients your child needs most during different stages of growth, as well as gives examples of common foods that contain them. The authors also explain how a child’s developmental stage—from infancy to teenage years—may impact their eating behavior. Questions and answers to popular problems parents face also salt and pepper the pages. This is my all-time favorite feeding reference and one that I recommend to parents and pediatricians again and again.
Child of Mine by Ellyn Satter
Best for: Understanding Feeding Dynamics
If you’re like me, you’ve likely winced, shuttered, or possibly stood by in awe(!) at the array of amusing, bizarre, and sometimes surprisingly effective tactics people use to get the kids they love to eat. Wondering what works, what doesn’t, and why? Let Ellyn Satter, the godmother of feeding theory, explain! Satter, a dietitian and family therapist, will take you through the ins-and-outs of the Division of Responsibility (DOR), an evidence-based feeding theory that’s the bomb diggity. Parents that practice the DOR typically raise kids that maintain a natural, healthy body weight, have higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, and have more confidence when it come to foods and eating. This classic is great resource for raising balanced, happy eaters. Just can’t wait for your copy? Get tips now by visiting EllynSatterInstitute.org, a site you can bet that every pediatric nutritionist has bookmarked.
First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson
Best for: Foodies and want-to-know-it-alls (You are my people, BTW!)
This book tells the fascinating story of the origins of flavor preferences and taste. It’s a journalistic and historical approach to explaining how we learn to eat, which means it gives a treasured perspective on how our kids are learning to eat as well! If an entertaining yet science based walk through fields of interesting nutritional, neurological, and psychological research on eating habits sounds like an awesome way to spend an afternoon, then you'll love this book. Actually, even if you’re NOT particularly jazzed about the topic, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson has that story-teller quality you just can't ignore.
Food Chaining: The Proven 6-Step Plan to Stop Picky Eating, Solve Eating Problems, and Expand Your Child's Diet by Cheryl Fraker, RD, Mark Fishbein, MD, Sibyl Cox, RD, + Laura Walbert, CCC-SLP
Best for: Learning the tips and tricks experts use to expand a kid's palate
First off, this book is loaded with info and tips to help solve a variety of feeding problems, from everyday nuisances (like getting a toddler to sit through a meal) to less common problems (like swallowing issues in the special needs child). However, the part I think parents will appreciate most is Chapter 6: How Do I Get My Child to Try New Foods? The info here answers the one question nutritionists get on-the-regular. Food chaining is a pretty simple process that most people pick up on quickly and the explanation and instructions in this chapter provide the tools you need to do it. It's also a great primer for any pediatric practitioner who wants to get familiar with the concept so they confidently pass on some 'picky eating' tips of their own.
Food Refusal and Avoidant Eating in Children including those with Autism Spectrum Conditions by Gillian Harris and Elizabeth Shea
Best for: Understanding picky eating (on steroids!)
Most of the parents I work with use a strikingly similar conversation starter: “He is SO picky! He won't eat anything we give him,” after which a longer conversation reveals that, aside from an assortment of vegetables, exotic-sounding sauces, and fish, the child truly has few food limits. This book is NOT for them.
This book is for caregivers of children dealing children with an extremely extreme form of ‘picky,’ one that can lead to nutritional deficiencies, social isolation, major mealtime stress, and (not surprisingly!) put a major ding in family dynamics. Extremely picky eaters often reject foods for reasons only they may understand. They've often whittled down the list of things they'll accept to 10 five, even just three foods or less, Usually, extreme forms of food rejection relate to sensory issues, anxiety, or a previous negative incident with food (such as choking or food poisoning) NOT with concerns about body shape or size. I find that parents are a mixture of relieved and terrified when I tell them their child's extreme pickiness has a clinical name, ARFID (avoid restrictive food intake disorder) and can quantify as a eating disorder. That said, you don’t need to have an ARFID diagnosis to benefit from the insights in this book! And, if you’re raising a child with autism or working with kids on the spectrum on-the-regular then the tips and advice these authors provide will be a godsend to both you and them.
How to Nourish Your Child Through an Eating Disorder by Casey Crosbie, RD, CSSD and Wendy Sterling MS, RD, CSSD
Best for: Creating a game-plan for dealing with ED
Speaking of eating disorders, they are HARD. So HARD. EDs are ugly, life-stealing, joy-strangling bastards and I pray as a parent you never have to deal with one. That’s why I’m so passionate about helping parents and pediatricians be mindful about avoiding triggering an ED in any child they talk to about eating, foods, and weight. But I digress… Crosbie and Sterling's book is a bible for any parent trying to tackle the biggest, most malicious feeding obstacle they’ll ever face. Practically speaking, the authors work within the context of Family Based Therapy (FBT) and provide parents with skills they need to support their child through recovery within their own home. It’s a brilliant approach that brings everyone on board, a crucial aspect of long-term success. Even if you’re child doesn’t have a full-blown eating disorder but is teetering with some disordered eating behaviors this book can be a solid asset for steering your family back on course to having a healthy relationship with food.
If you like any of these books, please talk about them with a fellow parent, colleague, teacher, or friend! Spreading the word about positive feeding practices is an awesome way to start changing the culture our kids face when it comes to eating and foods.