WAYS to get your child to eat more healthy foods and drive you less insane!
20.03.2012 79 °F
I have found as Bodhi becomes more mobile, now 22 months old and always on the go, he does not want to sit down and eat. Breakfast is OK, lunch difficult, dinner nearly impossible. What he wants is for me to follow along behind him carrying snacks, and when he reaches back, I will hadn him a few pretzels, a pack of raisins, or a few apple slices. I know grazing is good for you, but this is ridiculous. And I am embarressed to admit that I have resorted to this method on several occasions, just to get him to eat something, when he refuses to climb into his highchair. Meals have now become a lesson in negotiations and patience. Wanting him to eat something healthy, and wanting him to try what I have spent time preparing for him produce anxiety that I just am not accustomed to feeling. I find myself pleading a lot..."Please? Can you try this?"
"Yum, it's sooo good, Mama likes it!" "Please?" The airplane spoon and other such techniques simply no longer work. He wants control over this process. I want to let him decide what to eat, but dammit, I want it to be on my terms too. I believe in providing variety and letting your child try a lot of different foods, spices, and preparations to expand their tastes and experience of food - in theory. In practice, however, I find it leads to a lot of uneaten food and unnecessary prep work. Oh, and many pieces of food swiped onto the floor. Equivalent to frustration for momma.
I have heard that this is a part of toddlerhood and that the pickiness will pass. But when we go out to a restaurant and I have to order him french fries, because I know it's the only thing they have that he will reliably eat, I can't help but feel a little sense of defeat. This momma-baby food drama is definitely one area I have had to work on, and one I continue to remind myself to have a sense of humor about. Hey, I grew up eating McDonalds french fries,and I turned out fine My child has only had fast food one time, while stuck in an airport in Paris; he had such bad diarrhea that I or he will never do it again.
As I work through this challenge and try to get healthy food into my child, I will share some bits of sunshine and some lessons learned, to help other moms encountering toddler food strikes...
Here are a FEW TIPS I have learned along the way:
(1) EAT EARLY - when my son eats at 5-5:30, he's more likely to eat what we give him. It's important to eat at a regularly scheduled time, kids do SO much better with routine. If it gets too late before we have food on his plate, he gets fidgety and tired and that tiredness makes him less agreeable to try new things or sit still to eat.
(2) PLACE FOOD IN FRONT OF THEM IN STAGES
Start with the foods YOU want them to eat (example, steamed broccoli and roasted carrots). Provide a dipping sauce or two if necessary. Then move on to adding things you know they will eat, like turkey sausage and olives in our case. Finish with fruit or yogurt for dessert. In my experience, if you even make the suggestion for fruit, the rest of the meal is not happening. No sweet things first.
(3) DON'T EAT AS A FAMILY
I know this is controversial. In fact, I thought my family would be like the Cleaver's, but not while our child is this young. Our son Bodhi has to eat early, and his dinner only lasts for about 20 minutes. So we find when we try to eat together, that my husband and I feel we are frantically shoving food into our mouths while trying to make sure our son doesn't unbuckle his booster seat and climb out. Our family's way: HAPPY HOUR. Bodhi eats his food. We sit with him, make conversation, have a glass of wine and antipasti. A snack and a drink. It has the same effect as 'eating together', but we still get a relaxing dinner atmosphere after he has gone to bed. And keep our sanity.
(4) TRY SOY SAUCE OR LEMON & OLIVE OIL ON VEGGIES
I know, I know, watch the sodium. But for our son, you add soy sauce to rice or veggies, and he gobbles them up. Enough said. Best ever is "gomasio" - the sushi spinach rolls - our son loves them with the salty goodness an they have about a pound of fresh spinach per roll! He gives all other greens the evil eye, so this was a big victory for us.
(5) AIM FOR 5-7 FRUITS & VEGGIE SERVINGS A DAY
My best secrets for this are veggie burgers, hiding vegetables pureed into pasta sauce or in smoothies or popsicles that we make by hand, both of which my son loves to have. There are also some wonderful products by dr.praeger called spinach pancakes or broccoli pancakes - they are potato cakes with vegetables, but my son loves them plain or with applesauce.
I have heard time and time again that it can take up to 15 times for a child to "like" a food. That means that he rejected it 14 times before accepting it. Apparently the researchers in that study had much more patience than I. I prefer to keep offering the healthy things that he likes, and to try one or two things a week that are new, in hopes we find a new winner.
(More on food allergies and how to cope with them - and our baby food global cookbook! - in picky eater, part 3)