Giant disclaimer! I only claim to be the “expert” for my own 2 ½ year old! I am not the expert for your child, and I am not the expert for my own when he is 3, or 5, or 10…yet! But I have a pretty good handle on what we’re up against right now, and I hope that my ideas can help you too. Take them with a grain of nutritional yeast, and remember that you are the expert on your own child too!
How many times have your heard a parent say to their child “Eat your vegetables, there are starving children in Africa who don’t have any food.” And where did it really get them? Did the child suddenly, and guiltily, scarf down a bowl of veggies? (If you are interested in helping someone in Africa, or somewhere else around the world, click here to read more about my “family business”!!!).
Irving and I both grew up in “Clean Plate Club” households, and to this day, we both clean our plates, regardless of how stuffed we are, to our detriment. I even find myself eating crusts of David’s PB&J just so that no food is wasted. But isn’t it just wasted in my body instead? I don’t need it, so eating it is just a different kind of waste. I digress.
It’s not wrong to clean your plate, but we (Irving and I) don’t think that it’s the best way to eat, so we decided we wanted to do something different with David. Here are some things that are working for us in the toddler feeding department (or course, subject to change at any minute!):
- I cook one meal for all of us (sometimes reformatted for David but with the same ingredients—soup poured over pasta, casserole blended into a soup, salad ingredients served individually instead of with the greens, etc.). If David isn’t interested in the meal he doesn’t have to eat it, but he won’t be offered any other food until the next meal. I don’t make special “kid” food for him.
- I typically don’t save food from one meal to the next. If David hated his lunch, I won’t force-feed it to him for dinner. I will provide him with a new option. Sometimes I will give fruit a quick rinse and save it (for him!), but it depends on how much it’s been manhandled!
- When David is “done” I ask him if his tummy is full, and if he thinks he ate a healthy meal. If he answers yes, he’s excused from the meal. I don’t ask him to take X number of more bites. If he says he’s full, he’s full, but again, no more food until the next meal. I do ask him to try new foods, but I don’t force them. And I don’t punish for not eating something.
- Offer a healthy variety of foods at each meal. I often serve a fruit with his dinner because I know it is healthy and that he will eat it (the boy has never turned down fruit, except for watermelon. I have no idea what’s up with the watermelon!). Then I will serve something that I know he is not as fond of as well. Serving him a plate of only infamous Brussels sprouts would be setting us all up for failure. Giving him a small taste of Brussels sprouts along side his favorite grapes and pasta increases the chance that he’ll tried the less favorite food too!
^^^ I recently offered these yellow grape tomatoes (David HATES fresh tomatoes) mixed with regular grapes. David thought it was so funny that they were both called grapes, and took a bite out of each tomato, although he didn’t actually eat any. But it was a good start!
- Keep offering up the same foods, even if they are turned down the first time. David adores mushrooms. Most nights he will out eat Irving. Some nights he will refuse to eat them at all. It is so frustrating, but it happens. The joys of childhood. Just keep offering them!
And a few notes we got from a well check (our 12 month check and I still have it on the bulletin board, it’s that good!) at our pediatrician about feeding toddlers (and these are copied almost verbatim):
- Trust their appetite center. Children eat as much as they need. Their brain will make sure they eat enough calories for normal energy and growth.
- Limit snacks between meals (they suggest 1). The most common reason for children never appearing hungry is that they have so many snacks they never truly are hungry.
- Never feed your child if they are capable of feeding themselves. If your child is hungry, he will feed himself. Force feeding is the main cause of eating power struggles.
- Make mealtimes pleasant. Draw your children into mealtime conversation. Avoid making mealtimes a time for criticism or struggle for control.
- Don’t extend mealtime. Don’t make your child sit at the dinner table after the rest of the family is through eating. This will only cause your child to develop unpleasant feelings about mealtime.
I love that last one! I still remember the time my mom made us pumpkin soup when I was a kid. I would probably love it now, but at the time my brother and I hated it. So we sat at the table for an hour after everyone else was done. My dad finally came in and told us to plug our noses (to dull our taste sense) and to gulp it down fast. That was 25 years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday!
Hope these tips help with the tricky eaters in your life! Keep reading for more fun, kid tested recipes throughout the month of Vegan MoFo!
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