One of the best pieces of advice I ever received came from her pediatrician. She told me to stop looking at what she was eating over the course of a day, and instead watch her over the course of a week. Once I did that, I realized her diet was much more varied than I originally thought. And if she didn’t eat one day, she usually made up for it the next or maybe the next. The more she was exposed to healthy food, the more she tried, and thus consumed. And lo and behold, as she grew and matured, so did her appetite and her palette. All that worry for nothing.
I think most parents, especially new ones, stress out over their children’s eating habits. Maybe you aren’t hanging your post-mortem meal planner on your fridge like I did, but you still stress.
If I could offer you one word of advice, it would be to relax. Most kids we label picky eaters are just misunderstood normal eaters. But if you want a little more to chew on than “relax,” I found this list of suggestions on the Mayo Clinic website. And since I have an opinion about all things nutrition, I’ve blessed you with my comments in red.
1. Respect your child’s hunger — or lack thereof. Young children tend to eat only when they’re hungry. If your child isn’t hungry, don’t force a meal or snack.
2. Stay calm. If your child senses that you’re unhappy with his or her eating habits, it may become a battle of wills. Threats and punishments only reinforce the power struggle.
3. Keep an eye on the clock. Nix juice and snacks for at least one hour before meals. If your child comes to the table hungry, he or she may be more motivated to eat.
4. Don’t expect too much. After age 2, slower growth often reduces a child’s appetite. A few bites may be all it takes for your child to feel full.
5. Limit liquid calories. Low-fat or fat-free dairy products and 100 percent fruit juice can be important parts of a healthy diet — but if your child fills up on milk or juice, he or she may have no room for meals or snacks.
8. Leave taste out of it. Talk about a food’s color, shape, aroma and texture — not whether it tastes good.
10. Eat breakfast for dinner. Who says cereal or pancakes are only for breakfast? The distinction between breakfast, lunch and dinner foods may be lost on your child.
This would mean I actually have to bring my children to the grocery store. See, as sad as it may seem, the grocery store is my happy place. Something about taking 3 kids there changes the ambiance. I know, I need to get out more. I will in 2012 when Elliana starts kindergarten. Same with dinner prep. This is usually my kids’ TV time. I know that doesn’t win me any kind of parenting award, but I never signed up for a competition.
13. Set a good example. If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow suit.
14. Be sneaky. Add chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups.
And if you like this post or my blog, linking back to me would make me smile. Links are the gifts that keep on giving.