Getting your child to eat is a special kind of challenge, because despite the fact that a healthy diet is so important to their development, ultimately the choice is theirs to make.
As parents, we try our best to get our kids to eat healthy foods, but we usually reach a point where we would rather give them something they’ll eat rather than letting them go hungry. So we give in and make something not-so-healthy, but something we know they’ll eat.
Today, I’ve got some great information for you about kids’ nutritional needs, as well as some tips for helping them make healthy choices on their own, try some new foods, and restore happy mealtimes to your dinner table.
My first son was the world’s pickiest eater. I would, I challenge you all. I really think he was the world’s pickiest eater and so I understand so clearly and vividly when I hear people say to me “What can I do? “My child won’t eat.” So I want to give you some tips here today that I used on my own son and have used with parents through the Food Sense program to give you a couple of ways in which you can encourage your child to eat.
Now, the first thing you’re gonna want to do is monitor your expectations because I find that nine times out of 10 parents their expectations about what their child should be eating are much higher than what a child actually requires. The average toddler only needs about 1100 to 1200 calories a day. When you think about that, that is not a whole lot of food, especially if they’re still nursing or drinking a bunch of milk.
That’s always my first suggestion is that you have a look at fluid consumption. I know for my son, he loved milk. He would beg for milk all day long and I usually gave in because I felt worried or guilty that he wasn’t eating properly, so I thought well milk’s better than something. But when I sat down and added up how many calories via milk he was getting in a 24-hour period, it was more than half of his required calorie needs.
So I mean, he didn’t really have to eat that much food to make up what his body required. So have a good hard look at that. After the age of one, milk is a beverage, not a food source and that is a bit of a mind, you have to kind of shift your mindset around that, that you should really just be offering little half cup glasses of milk at meals and snack time so that your child learns to actually eat food rather than rely on fluids.
The next thing you’re gonna want to do is have a look at the structure of your day. So little toddler bellies can only handle about two hours between meals and snacks. So you’re gonna want to have a fairly structured day where you’re having a proper breakfast, two hours later a snack, two hours later lunch, two hours later an afternoon snack, two hours later dinner and then bedtime and so it’s your job to plan those out and have them be timed appropriately.
It’s also your job to decide what your child will be eating for those things. So do not ask a two-year-old what they want for lunch. That is too overwhelming and too much responsibility and quite frankly too much power to give your two-year-old daughter. You decide what is for lunch. My rule is to give at least three choices. So maybe for breakfast it’s a piece of toast with peanut butter, some cut-up banana and maybe some slices of cheese. That’s what the breakfast options are. So you’ve done your job. You’ve got the time just right, you’ve put out a few choices for her.
The next thing you need to do is back off. This is hard, I know. But back off. The more pressure you put on a child, the higher the danger is that they’re gonna start to have some really warped ideas and relationships with food, right. You’re gonna get into a battle of wills about food. They’re gonna start to think that some food is bad and some food is good. I have to eat the bad food in order to get the good food.
This is all stuff you don’t want to do, right. I mean just look around at all the adults in this world who have bad relationships with food and weight problems. You really want to be cautious that you’re not setting your child up for that kind of failure. So just back off. It’s her body. She needs to learn how to regulate feelings of full, feeling of hunger, tastes and preferences. So it’s not your job to apply a ton of pressure. Just let her decide. If she eats all of the banana and none of the toast, no big deal, that’s on her. If she wants more banana and she doesn’t want the toast, we’re gonna give her more banana. Today it’s bananas, right. Maybe tomorrow it’s toast.
It’s always a good idea to look at your child’s food consumption over the course of a week, not a day and you’ll most likely see that over a week, yeah, today was banana day and tomorrow’s gonna be peanut butter and bread day and so on. So they tend to have, they tend to eat in that way. The only thing you’re gonna want to be cautious about is grazing between meals or snack times. That’s a very common toddler trick is to start begging for treats or snacks between meals and again your job is to say no to that, that it is snack time, it is lunch time, it is snack time, it is dinner time and there is no food that happens in between those periods and what that’s going to do is teach your child that I better eat when I have the opportunity to eat or I might feel a little bit hungry and that’s okay, that’s an internal consequence.
That’s a great way for your child to learn to regulate her own body needs. I eat when there’s food present, otherwise I’ll be hungry. So those are just a few tips to get you started, but if you want some more advice you’re gonna want to check out the Food Sense program. That’s gonna give you a step-by-step plan to really tackling these issues if you’ve got a picky eater in the house.
Thanks so much for watching today. Sleep well.