Yesterday I mentioned that one of the areas of motherhood that tends to weigh on me is my children’s relationship with food. I end up being one of those “it’s not that big of a deal to buy fruit loops” moms. When what I truly, in my heart of hearts, want to be is one of those “my kids think vegetables are dessert” moms. I just do. I admire them.
My frustration is particularly with EBug’s eating habits, because she is particularly obsessed with asking for candy and cookies every waking moment. And while I definitely believe that a treat every now and then is no big deal, it’s just not going over like that around here. She would be 100% happy with fruit loops for breakfast, cookies for lunch, and lollipops for dinner.
And my goodness, dinner. Poke my eyeballs out with a pencil. It is so frustrating! I dread it. I love to cook, and I love to make hot, healthy meals for dinner. And before she even tastes a single, tiny, mouse portion, she declares, “I don’t yike it!”
So I’ve been mulling things over. I’ve searched the world wide web for advice and insight into this frustrating, albeit common, toddler problem. And I have begun my strategy to implement change.
My strategy for Brother Bear is as follows: Continue to give him things like full pieces of broccoli (which he devours!!) and never ever taint his pure palette with high fructose corn syrup. Ok, done.
And now my strategy for EBug. First off, I am going to stop buying the junk. I just have to do this. There is no point in having chips in the pantry so that I can beat my head against a wall after I have refused her request for them for the eleventh time before 8:30 am. When she knows there is junk food in the house, she fixates on it. It just creates madness.
Next, I am going to cut the snacking. I have been letting her have little bowls of who-knows-what dispersed throughout her play zones to graze upon whenever she wants. Then she doesn’t eat at meal time. That’s not rocket science. I can’t be shocked when she’s not hungry.
I read that children only need to eat about every 3 hours. So meals, and maybe one afternoon snack, should be spaced accordingly. In light of this I am rethinking our dinner time. Since she does have a snack after nap at about 3:30, I am going to try pushing dinner back to 6 to see if she is hungrier then.The site also recommended no milk or juice between meals. Guilty. She fills up on it I’m sure.
Rob and I have talked and have decided that she is old enough for the ole “this is the only food available to you until the next meal.” We are weary with the dinner battles and don’t feel settled that the “you must take 5 bites” is the best approach. It makes her very defensive and makes us all a little nutty.
We have decided that she must sit at the table for the meal, since that is family time, and whatever she does or doesn’t eat is fine but her next meal will not be until breakfast. We are going to have her repeat this back to us, so that it is crystal clear. And of course, the meal will be on the table all evening if she wants to come back to it and give it a try.
The next strategy is getting her involved with the cooking process. This is the idea I am putting the most hope in. As I’ve mentioned, she is a little bakerella. Loves to pour, mix, and taste. I’ve seen several mommy blogs out there referencing letting their toddler help with dinner, and I have always been drawn to this idea. So last night, we gave it a whirl.The girl was all about it. Love at first stir. I would put down the spoon and look over to see her picking it up and tending the sauce. So precious. Of course some cheese tasting happened. She was very reluctant to put any of it into the actual dish, but eventually I convinced her. Then the strangest thing happened. She picked up the carrot I had been peeling and started chowing down.
Now I have offered carrots to this child numerous times. So so so many times. And never is it met with any sort of interest. I can maybe get her to take one bite of them when they are roasted.
But sure enough, clear as day, here she was chomping down on a raw carrot like a little bunny. Be still my heart.
Now I wish I could say that all this led to a perfect, blissful dinner. It did not. She only ended up wanting to eat the tomatoes out of the salad. Weird, but whatever.
But, we had an absolute blast cooking together. I don’t think it will always be feasible and practical, but it’s something I want to do at least a couple nights a week. I am still hopeful it will yield more interest in the meal if she has been involved in the process. And even though she did not devour the meal like I had hoped, it was a great opportunity to build her up in her independence and skill development.
And lastly, I have one more idea to get her interested in nutritious foods. I have planned a series of nutrition lessons for us to work through this week. (I know, the teacher in me never dies.) But I am really excited to teach her about the food groups, so that I have something to build on when I refuse her cookie request for the millionth time. Tomorrow-Grains. Get Excited.