The common question I hear from moms is how to get their child to eat and eat the right foods. The answer is complicated and every child is different but after having 2 children, I think I’ve seen a pattern of behavior when it comes to eating.
It makes me sad to think that some parents use food as a power struggle. They pick the foods for the children and if the children don’t want to eat it, they are forced to eat it and sit at the table until the food is gone. When I hear stories like this from other moms how they treat their children, it just makes me ill to think that these children have to suffer like that and they might never have a normal relationship with food and proper nutrition. Many times I’ve heard in the same breath a comment about the child not eating any vegetables and forcing/punishing is the only way to get them down.
I’m sure we can all remember some times from our childhood and what it was like when we were told to eat something that we didn’t like. Or we were told to finish our plate because other children in the world are suffering and food was not intended to be wasted. I’m sure everyone who was forced to eat a certain food they didn’t like as a child, will not eat that same food today as an adult. The impact of the forcing food, can be so severe that it carries through adulthood and affects the way we view food in general which can lead to bad nutrition, wrong portion sizes and weight gain.
A child’s body is naturally made to know when it’s full and what foods to eat to get a balanced nutrition. If the only foods offered at home are nutritious and healthy, then the child naturally gravitates towards those foods especially if he is allowed to listen to his body and its needs by not forcing to finish the plate or a certain food group.
Dr. Williams Sears advises to shoot for a balanced week of nutrition when it comes to toddlers instead of a day. One day a toddler might be extremely picky and only eat a little bit and yet the next day the same child might eat what might seem huge portions for a child. This is all common behavior in children. One reason why toddlers, for example, have a hard time sitting still and eating a plate of food, is because they are too busy to eat. Playing with toys is so much more fun than sitting down at the table and eating. The best way to help with that is to provide a snack tray with healthy foods on it that the toddler can refer to as he is playing without forcing him to sit and eat when he is not ready.
In our family, we only buy organic and healthy food for home. When we are out and about, we don’t worry about it as much but at home we want to create a safe haven for food so that the children’s growing bodies and our bodies stay healthy and strong.
I pack our son’s lunch for school every day because he has requested me to do so and I’m glad that my years of trying to show him the right way to eat are paying off. Our son is in 2nd grade now and last year he wanted to buy school lunch every now and then. I let him do that because I wanted him to have a variety and I also wanted him to tell me which foods he liked and make his decision on what to eat for lunch each day. This year he told me that he didn’t want to buy and preferred I made his lunch.
I don’t feel like eating the same thing or a certain food for lunch every day so I don’t expect my child to eat whatever I choose for him either because he might not feel like eating a specific food on that day. When he was a toddler and a preschooler, we used to allow him to eat his dessert before eating his main food if dessert was available and he wanted it. After taking few bites of his dessert he came back and ate his main food every time and actually forgot about the dessert. He never learned to be obsessive about desserts or sweets because we never made them a big deal. I learned this trick from Dr. William Sears. I feel fortunate that I’ve listened to his advice and my own heart and my children over the years so that I’ve been able to make better decisions when it comes to food.
Our son’s favorite foods are fruits and vegetables and I contribute that to the fact that we never pushed him to eat them. They were just always offered and available in case he wanted to have them. We also have taught him that we eat until our bellies feel full not until the plate is empty. Our son tells us all the time that so and so of his friends have to eat their whole plate empty or they don’t get a dessert. These are also children who have major sweet tooth and trouble eating fruits and vegetables on their own. I wonder if there is a correlation there.
Our daughter (2-years-old) is now being “taught” the same way about food. We offer her fruits and vegetables and many times she wants them more than any other food group. Some times she hardly eats any and that’s fine too. I don’t worry about it because I know that once the next meal comes around she might want them again. She also nurses and many times she prefers nursing over food. I’ll sometimes nurse her first because she wants to and then offer her food in case she is still hungry.
Our daughter is what someone might consider overweight but she is not considered overweight because of the nursing. Our pediatrician, Dr. William Sears, noted that if she was this weight with getting formula or cows milk and/or bad nutrition (cakes, candy, soda chips etc) perhaps then it would be a concern but because bulk of her nutrition is nursing, her body will use up all the healthy fats stored because they’re from breastmilk which is stored differently than normal fat coming from excessive eating or bad nutrition. I’m fortunate again to have Dr. Sears instead of some mainstream pediatrician who has very little knowledge or information about nursing and its benefits let alone knowledge about extended breastfeeding.
What I’ve learned over the years as a parent is not to obsess about my children and their eating habits as long as I offer them healthy foods to eat most of the time. Our children also get occasionally junk food at other people’s houses and at birthday parties, from grandparents etc and I don’t worry about it because I believe in moderation and not denying yourself or your child of certain foods that can become a huge problem later on. You can eat pretty much anything in moderation as long as bulk of your diet is healthy combined with exercise.
Reija Eden – www.attachedmom.com