Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Joys of Toddlerhood- Part 1

Ah, toddlerhood.

Strangers turn away and cringe. 

Other mothers tsk-tsk and offer unsolicited advice.

Neighbors pretend they don't know you in the grocery store as your son flops around on the floor.

Even parents dread the "onery ones," the "terrible twos," and the "three-times-as-bad threes." 

{maybe I made some of those up, but whatever...}

I could get into tantrums or selfishness or stubborn independence, or half a dozen other toddler trials.  But today we tackle the picky eater.

Since we started solids, my kiddo has been a great eater.  She ate everything with gusto... well, except peas, I always had to hide those.  She tried and liked all kinds of fruits and veggies, including spinach, broccoli, and more adventurous greens.  She learned the joy of being at the top of the food chain and attacked chicken, turkey, pork, salmon, and beef with gusto. She devoured whole grains and dairy.

And then a few weeks ago, she developed the dreaded toddler pallete.

80% of what we put on her tray goes on the floor.

Even when she is super hungry most of it rejected on sight, without even a taste.

I keep offering and she keeps feeding the dogs.

Her food pyramid consists of yogurt, blueberries, goldfish, taco meat, chicken nuggets, and oatmeal cream pie cookies.

Don't get me wrong, I keep offering healthy options and the junk happens rarely. But this is the food pyramid she would choose.

Now, I know it is perfectly normal for a kid to be picky.  Hell, I think I ate chicken fingers for fifteen years straight.  But I've tried hard to give her a balanced diet, especially since we are weaning off of breastmilk.  I want her to do better than I did at 13.

I offer lean shredded meats, steamed veggies, fresh fruit, whole grains, beans, and plenty of dairy.

I feel like lunch is the hardest meal to be creative with.  This kid won't even eat bread!

And she is asking to eat all day long. She must have hollow legs, this kid.  I try to stick with breakfast, lunch, dinner, morning snack, and an evening snack.  I find if she is hungry at mealtime, she tries more things.  But what if she won't stop signing "eat" and pulling me to her high chair an hour before dinner?  Give her a snack or tell her to wait for dinner?

When she doesn't eat the dinner we are having... give in and feed her something else or "teach her a lesson" she probably won't understand yet and put her to bed hungry? {which means she would probably wake me up crying at 3am}

At lunch when she refuses the food, I put her plate in the fridge and I offer it again in an hour or two. And this stubborn kid still won't have anything to do with it.
So... I want to know... how did you get your kids to eat well?  What are their favorite healthy meals and snacks?  Have any tips to share? Will she be rejecting my dinners until she is 18 and moves away to complain about dorm food?


Mel Bowman said...

I should preface this by saying that, from the time we started solids at 6 months, my son has been an awesome eater. He takes after my husband and I, so maybe I just got lucky.

I never made something different for Aidan, but I always planned my meals to include at least one food item I knew he (should) want to eat. Even at a year old he would get whatever we were eating, cut into tiny pieces. I never pureed anything - everything was diced or mashed. I would load each of our plates with the amount of food I felt was balanced, and we ate it.

I never ever ever forced him to eat something he didn't want, nor did I ever insist he finish his plate. However, if he wasn't hungry for dinner, then he wasn't hungry for dessert. It's just not a battle I ever felt I had to wage, because I knew Aidan wouldn't starve himself. He had a few nights where he went to bed with no dinner, but that was his choice. I think all kids have to experiment with hunger. Every once in a while I make something he truly doesn't like, so if he tries it and isn't interested I'll do something else (usually frozen peas and peanut butter and jelly sandwich). I used to wait to spice up our food until after I separated out his portion, but now at almost 3 Aidan is eating spicier foods.

We're not perfect. One night last week I didn't feel like cooking, so we had popcorn for dinner. Some nights we eat a bowl of fruit for an entire meal. But, I feel that most days we eat a pretty balanced meal, and certainly over 2 weeks (which is what parents of toddlers should be tracking) we were fine. I should also note that, like most kids, Aidan's biggest meal was always lunch, not dinner. So, I started preparing a larger meal for lunch and then doing something smaller for dinner.

I purposely don't keep a lot of sweets in the house because *I* have no self control, so he wasn't used to seeing a dessert every day anyway. His "dessert" for the first two years was frozen blueberries and frozen peas (pea-candy).

The hardest adjustment for him has been lately when I generally forbid food after 6pm and drink after 7pm. I'm potty training him at night so it's been a big change from eating dinner at 7:30pm to eating at 5pm. But he wants to wear underwear at night and it's the only thing that works (plus waking him up between 11:30-midnight to pee).

Mel Bowman said...

Though Aidan remains an excellent eater, my nephew and several of my friends' kids are not. Here is what you might try:

1. Offer veggies like peas and green beans raw and frozen - especially great for the summer heat.

2. Have raw or lightly steamed veggies and dip on the counter in the evenings. Ever notice how much more you eat when you're snacking on the fly at a buffet at a party? Works for toddlers, too.

3. It's better for toddlers to eat six smaller meals than 3 larger ones. Divide breakfast into two parts, and dinner into two parts. Then, try planning a larger lunch and maybe one other snack.

4. Each meal should have a mix of foods you know she likes, and a mix of foods she isn't as fond of. Eventually, she'll try the new stuff. Also: offer her something to dip her foods into. My nephew went through a phase where he put ketchup on everything. Then it was ranch dressing.

5. Eat with your daughter and let her see you enjoying the foods you expect her to eat.

6. Put the pets away during meal times. If she throws food on the floor, make her help you clean it up. Right now feeding the dog is way more satisfying than eating her own food. Plus, she knows you'll keep giving her more. The easiest way to teach this lesson is simply to remove the temptation. Apologize to the pups, but honestly it's for their own good, too. I don't want to admit how fat two of my cats got before I figured this one (P.S. they're still fat).

7. Accept that most kids go through this phase, and be patient. She will not starve herself. Her body is changing so much that there will be days when she never stops eating, and others when she doesn't want much. So long as you offer healthy choices, she'll be fine.

8. Don't fight the food battle - you'll loose.

So far 1 was the hardest age for my son. At that age his verbal skills were lacking and his ability to reason non-existent. He's less than a month from turning 3 and I have to say there was absolutely nothing terrible about him being 2 (except for the three trips to the ER for stitches).

Anonymous said...

i would try the gerber graduate meals my just turned 3 yr still loves those things and he eats about 10% of what we eat. Also you can try this cookbook on this website:

good luck and you know what they say if they are hungry enough they will eat and if not then try later (like your doing) and if still nothing then stick to your guns and feed her only mealtime food and reward her with the bad snacks she likes. :)

Mal said...

When I first read this (quickly I might add), I thought you were saying you were weaned off of breastmilk at 13...bad visual! Glad I re-read!

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