Hi! I am so excited to be posting here on The Best Me. I was headed over to my good friend’s house for dinner the other night. He cautioned me before we showed up, “I don’t know what your kids will eat, but we eat adult around here.” It is my firm belief that kids should eat like adults. Moms should not have to make separate food or dinners for their kids just to get them to eat. It is getting them to that point that can be tricky. If you start healthy eating habits and routines when they are young, just starting solid foods, it is much easier to continue those on throughout their childhood.
I am not a nutritionist, or child psychologist, or really qualified to talk on this subject in any way. I am just a mom. I have two little girls who love to eat. I hope that some of the things I share today will be helpful to any of you who struggle to get your children to eat adult.
There are just a couple of rules that I live by as a mom:
- Communication is key
- Some battles are not worth winning
- “A person is a person no matter how small”
Communication is Key
Even as a six month old infant, my second daughter did not like bland food. I could not get her to eat baby food for anything. She would lick the spoon once, and then refuse to eat whatever I was offering. After talking with my pediatrician, she suggested adding salt, or other spices to her baby food. Her specific comment was “even infants have taste buds, and have you ever tasted baby food? It is gross.” After experimenting with everything from salt and pepper to Italian seasoning and allspice, I finally pulled out the last spice I would have ever expected to use, Cayenne pepper. That did the trick, a little sprinkling of it and she could not eat the baby food fast enough.
If I had been watching for her signals, and really communicating with my daughter, I could have seen sooner that the issue was not unwillingness to eat; it was just gross food I was giving her. Can you blame her? Communicating with your child often takes time and a lot of patience, but it is worth it in the end. When they know you are trying to understand, and you are teaching them to recognize and verbalize the emotions they are feeling, life gets so much easier.
Some Battles are not Worth Winning
My pediatrician told me when I was a young new mom not to expect my daughter to eat more than a half cup of food at any given period. My in-laws were skeptical of this, and even accused me of starving my child when I only dished her up two tablespoons of mashed potatoes and green beans, and a small piece of ham. However, while they were still fighting with their child to finish off the food on their plates, my daughter had finished eating all on her own. Sure she was hungry again a couple hours later, but she was happy to come back and eat more – seconds are always encouraged. The dinner table has never been a source of contention at my home. I make sure that each of my girls eats a healthy balanced diet, but not all at once.
On a side note, I am not a huge fan of nutrition-less snacks, or empty calories. I make sure that when they are hungry, we have an array of healthy choices to choose from. Sure we still have cookies, crackers, and other goodies around the house, I’m not a complete tyrant, but I always offer the healthy choices first: applesauce, carrots, muffins, a sandwich, leftovers from dinner, etc.
“A Person is a Person, no Matter How Small”
Sometimes the self-imposed food strikes at my house are because someone is getting sick, in which case I do not want to force them to eat. Your child really does know their body better than you do. Sometimes they really are not hungry. When I was worried about how little my daughter ate, my pediatrician told me not to worry about it, kids will not starve themselves.
More often, these food strikes are simply because they feel the need to control some aspect of their short little lives. I can completely relate to this, as I am sure you all can. The solution to this issue is simply to give them some control.
I will take my girls to the grocery store, and give them five or six options of foods or meals that I can live with for lunch, and then let them pick two or three that they want to have. Then when lunch time rolls around they know which of those items they want for lunch before I even ask; sometimes planning days in advance.
For dinners, I will pull out the recipe book and ask them what they’d like, “should we have chicken and rice tonight, or soup and rolls?” The choice is always between two options that I would be happy to make, never just a blanket statement of, “What would you like for dinner?” With multiple children this can become more difficult to accomplish, but with my girls I just tell them if they can’t agree then mommy is going to choose; after which they quickly come to a compromise.
One more thing I want to mention. I firmly believe every mom should have a pediatrician that they respect, and can talk to about any problem. I did not have a good pediatrician with my first daughter, and it was rough going. As you probably noticed, I reference my pediatrician a lot. She has helped us through some really difficult phases, and has given me great advice specific to my children. I would encourage all of you, if you do not have a pediatrician that you absolutely love, shop around a bit and see if you can find one in your area, on your insurance plan, that you can develop a good relationship with.
I really hope that at least some of this information has been helpful. Like I said before, I’m not technically qualified on any of this, but these are the things that have worked for me and my girls.
Thanks Tiffany! Words of wisdom as only a mom could give!