Today we have a guest blogger, Megan McNamee MPH, RDN, CLT who is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in maternal/child nutrition, food sensitivities and disordered eating. She has a toddler and soon-to-be newborn at home and loves helping moms make feeding fun again. She is discussing common mistakes that we all make when feeding our kiddos and has suggested options that will work better for both US AND our little eaters. Because let’s face it….this kind of food fight is not a fun one! It’s time to end it once and for all.
Mealtimes with young children can be frustrating. You pour time, effort and love into putting delicious foods on the table, yet your toddler turns up her nose and asks for cereal. Again.
If you’re at the end of your rope when it comes to your toddler’s eating habits, rest assured that you’re not alone. Most parents struggle at some point with “picky” eating, throwing food, refusing all but a few select foods, or a host of other eating concerns. While these behaviors are aggravating, they’re considered quite normal and are usually reflective of your toddler’s developmental stage.
Many parents turn to bribing, begging or short-order cooking in order to get their kids to eat. While these strategies may work in the short-term and are done with good intention, they don’t create competent eaters over time. Set the stage now for better eating in the future by avoiding the following phrases:
1. “You can have dessert if you finish your vegetables.” Telling toddlers that they have to “eat through” something like veggies in order to get to what they really want – dessert – teaches them that dessert ranks higher than vegetables. It also encourages them to eat more than they may need. Food is food, and we want our kids to appreciate all forms of it, “healthy,” or not. Choose whether you will offer dessert before a meal and don’t let your child’s behavior during that meal dictate whether or not he will be offered dessert.
2. “Just take one bite.” Toddlers are especially scared of new foods, and they’re biologically wired to be this way. It may take your child 20 to 30 exposures of something new to be comfortable with it. If you make your child try something when he’s not ready for it, he may become even more resistant to new foods and won’t trust that he has control in what goes in his mouth (which is his responsibility). In the interim, serve a small portion on his plate, let him touch and explore it, and allow him to decide whether or not to eat it. He will get there eventually.
3. “Why don’t you want to eat this? It’s healthy!” Young children aren’t health conscious like their parents, and research suggests that the more you describe food as “healthy,” the less likely your toddler will be to eat it. Keep language neutral around food. Don’t describe things as “healthy” versus “unhealthy,” “good” versus “bad.” This type of black-and-white thinking can promote eating disorders in the long run and can be confusing to a young child. It’s most important for her to learn to listen to hunger and fullness signals and honor what her body tells her.
Need more information? My business partner Judy – a pediatric feeding therapist – and I have created a fully online, self-paced toddler feeding course that will give you a complete education in your 1 through 3-year-old’s eating, broken into short chapters that you take on your own time. Parents of babies and older children have loved taking the course as well; just keep in mind that certain portion sizes and nutritional needs are different for children of different ages.
We integrate the best of feeding therapy and nutrition counseling to answer all of your pressing questions, including what to do with difficult behaviors, how to make meals more appealing, what to put on the plate, and how to manage supplements and special diets. It’s like hiring your own personal dietitian and behavioral expert – in your pajamas! For more info, head to www.feedinglittles.com or check us out on Instagram (@feedinglittles) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/feedinglittles).
Today Feeding Littles is giving away one of their Online Toddler Feeding Courses. Enter by visiting the rafflecopter below.a Rafflecopter giveaway