Never in all my years of practical experience in the parental arena have I ever seen such a huge increase with eating disorders and the challenges surrounding children who are not eating…or what we tend to nickname “picky eaters.” Parents are consistently baffled with how to encourage their kids to eat healthy and how to maintain those healthy eating habits. How did we become so obsessed that we have now created the problems ourselves?
Our television is a big culprit. Brainwashed by commercials, that lead us to believe that our children have a problem with eating vegetables before they really do. Sneaking vegetables onto a plate as if it was something we shouldn’t feel proud to give to our children. When did meat and two veg become old fashioned? When did we as parents give in so easily so that our toddlers could follow suit? Did we get lazy as parents? Did we give up on our kids and resort to fast foods and dry foods like crackers, knowing all too well it would save us from the disappointment of cooking only for it to be rejected and cried upon with dismay?
Maybe we are happy for those clever commercials patting us on the back and insinuating that it’s “not our fault that our kids don’t want to eat healthy.” And, “Let’s just pump them with nutritional shakes so they never need to learn how to chew or use their facial muscles, which help with their speech development in those early developmental stages — all the while struggling to pencil in a meal plan for the week ahead.
So what is one of the biggest fundamentals we need to get right? Oh, trust me I’m not telling you it isn’t going to be a challenge, and I’m not telling you your kids aren’t going to whine about it, and I’m not telling you your kids are not going to turn their noses up and dig their heels in — especially if you have succumbed to such behavior in the past. What I will tell you is, it is not an impossible task to getting children thinking about and consuming food that is good for them. Our children depend on us to get it right for them — and in the meantime learn valuable lessons. So before we can move forward, let’s STOP and remind ourselves of the basics:
Create an Environment…
– Where good and healthy foods exist.
– Where exercise is basically fun activities.
– You are in it to win it. If you are going to sit down with your kid to eat a healthy meal, your plate better look the same.
What Are Your Kids Eating?
-Don’t know? You should know, because you are the one filling the fridge and cupboards. Read your last shopping receipt. You will find it very telling with respects to what you throw in that shopping cart (especially if it’s just before mealtime).
– Stick a Post-it note on the fridge so you can replace only the healthy stuff you run out of.
– Plan your meals. No more last minute pop-in at the supermarket.
– Cook more and freeze more to save time while creating a whole other meal.
Small Changes, Big Impact
– Change white ingredients/foods for brown, as they are un-refined.
– Half is better than full, unless it is milk for toddlers.
– Instead of full-blown soda, dilute sparkling water with a touch of natural cranberry or orange juice.
Take the Lead
– Snack on fruit and veg as they are simply sweeter. Or snacks like Sweet Bell Peppers, Apples with cream cheese, celery slices with peanut butter.
– Downsize the snack box. Less means more fresh snack choices. You can always stick paper cards in the snack box with the fridge snack for the day. For example, apricot yogurt or a peach medley.
Fun Social Experience
– Show your kids mealtimes are a family event! If you are eating with your partner later, have a small plate with your child at teatime. Do the same when you are on holiday.
– Keep the foodie ideas coming. Lend recipes from neighbors or fellow parents at the school, search out the internet, check out seasonal and themed foods. Trying one a week is a start.
– 3 main meals and 2-3 snacks per day.
– Remember serving size is different from portion size. For example, 2 slices of chicken, one small potato cut in two, and 2 large tablespoons of vegetables is an adequate amount for a toddler. (On a plate that is slightly bigger than a side plate).
Trust me I get it, Rome wasn’t built in a day and no one is saying that you do a complete 360. But the replacements in the advice above is the encouragement needed as this is a life long journey where it is not about destination, but goals that are achieved along the way.
Copywritten by Jo Frost