My kids were great eaters once. They would actually eat the vegetables first, and then the pasta and chicken. Yet, one day *poof* it all changed! These days, their favorite adjective is “yucky”. I am hoping this is just a stage — just another attempt by my willful toddlers to control everything (and everyone) around them. We have even had a few instances lately where my daughter has protested dinner altogether and did not eat a single thing. I worried that she would be hungry at bedtime, but she never even asked for food that evening. I’m not sure what happens to kids at this age, but like all of the behaviors that I can’t understand, I just assume it’s a phase and it too shall pass. What I do worry about is creating bad habits that will stick around, so I’ve read a lot about children’s eating habits lately, and here are some tips that I have found helpful:
1. Manage snacks – we typically will have a small snack at 10am and another around 3 or 4pm, but I have noticed, that the closer the snack is to 4pm, the less dinner they eat (we eat at 6pm), so I have tried to keep it closer to 3pm, and make sure it not too filling.
2. Resist the urge to negotiate – We all do it, but according to experts, we shouldn’t. “One more bite and you can have dessert”, while it sounds like a great strategy, it could lead kids to see desserts as a reward, versus just another food that we eat in moderation. Also, the more pressure we place on kids to eat, the more unpleasant meal times become. I was a picky eater and still remember the pit in my stomach during dinner time. The experts advise parents to just offer a variety of food and let kids did what and how much they want to eat (painful, I know). But the belief is that they will eventually come around and the less pressure they have, they more likely they will enjoy mealtimes and be open to more types of foods.
3. Eat together and model good eating – It’s no secret that kids learn everything from watching us, and eating is no different. So, if you want them to eat their broccoli, eat with them and show them how much you enjoy it. Not to mention that this is only one of the many, many benefits of family meals.
4. Make family friendly meals – Some meals are just not kid friendly, and while they should be exposed to as many foods as possible, it’s unrealistic to expect them to eat everything. If your kids are being extra picky, try making meals they will recognize and likely enjoy.
5. Always offer dessert – I know it sounds counter intuitive, but experts suggest that dessert be offered at regularly with meals, some even suggest they are served along with the meal and children should decide when to eat it. I’m too afraid to serve dessert with meals, but I do always offer something sweet after meals, usually fruit, or homemade baked goods. The important lesson is not to make dessert a reward. As an example, I made a ginger chicken stir fry yesterday, and while my son loved it, my daughter just didn’t like the taste — so she took two bites and was done. I still let her eat the dessert (avocado smoothie) and I’ll try ginger chicken again next time. (It can take kids up to 10 tries before they “like” something)
6. Drinking calories – Be aware of the calories that kids are consuming with meals, because if they fill up on calories from juice or chocolate milk, they won’t have room for much food. I only serve water at meals, but if you serve juice, try to limit the amount, or offer it at the end of the meal.
7. Don’t ban junk food outright, but don’t buy it in bulk either – Banning certain foods outright, will only make them more appealing. While I work hard at making healthy food for my kids, I allow them to pick their meals when we eat out, and allow them to have two pieces of cake at a party if that’s what they want. My goal is to help them to understand that healthy food is good for them, and makes them feel better, but we can eat less healthy food in moderation. My fear is that if I ban all junk food, then I risk having kids that will gorge on it once they are old enough to make their own choices.
The good news is that kids usually outgrow their pickiness with food at 12-13yrs old, the bad news for me is that my youngest is not even one!
sources: http://www.myhealthnewsdaily.com/1709-kids-healthy-eating-tips.html, http://www.themotherco.com/2012/01/getting-your-kids-to-eat/