The Secret to a Healthy Diet for your Fussy Toddler
If motherhood has taught me anything, it’s not to judge. Turns out I used to judge quite a bit! For example, I thought I really had things figured out on the food front: I insisted on preparing fresh lunches and dinners for our little ones and frowned upon other moms serving their kids cookies and pasta dinner after pasta dinner. Elliot was a perfectly healthy eater: meat or fish once a week, fresh greens the rest of the week and a sugary snack only once in a while. That was,… until Amelia was born. With a breastfeeding newborn strapped to my chest and many a sleepless nights under my belt, I gave into the temptation of cookies. Not only was I constantly stuffing myself with on the go sweetness to temper my never ending appetite, Elliot was – understandably – asking for a lot of attention. And out of the forty requests for a cookie, I gave in to probably about five. Eventually I gathered my strength and put a stop to this. Cookie time was introduced during Amelia’s morning nap and that was the end of it, or so I thought.
Suddenly my two-and-a-half-year old refused to eat healthy foods
Then at two and a half Elliot suddenly refused to eat veggies or fruit. Refused. At home, at school. I could only get him to eat bread or cookies. So frustrating! We tried everything: reasoning, punishing, offering new fruit and vegetables, serving his food in a fun way,… nothing helped.
Turns out that I feel like a really bad mom when my family doesn’t eat healthy foods
Scouring the internet for tips and tricks, I stumbled onto the article Trying to Get Your Child to Eat Vegetables? Here's Why You Shouldn't by dietician Natalia Stasenko MS, RD. She explains that many parents view eating vegetables not only as a determinant of healthy eating habits but of parental worth and that things can get very emotional then. What an eyeopener: that is precisely how I view not only our children’s but our own eating habits! I feel like our diet is part of our identity. I’m very proud of the food choices we make. Consequently, it was very surprising to read that that children grow just fine even if they don’t eat healthy and that it is ok to just let it go sometimes.
So I decided to focus on family time
Stasenko advises to look past the phase and focus the bigger picture: to teach your child that dinner time is family time. A time to relax and share your day with each other and not get frustrated over veggies. Our evenings became much more calm and with some tricks I got Elliot to get his vitamins here and there.
This is how I got him to eat some healthy foods after all:
Fewer eating moments
First of all Elliot pretty much eats all day long. He’s done so ever since I was breastfeeding him. He snacks throughout the day. Chances are that he just wasn't that hungry, I figured. So now I try to cluster his eating moments and that really helps him eat more of his dinner. When he’s hungry after school, I’ll have some soup ready and lately he’s excited to drink it from a “grown-up” mug.
Reusable fruit/veggie pouches
I can't express what a huge fan of reusable fruit pouches I've become. In the morning I make Elliot a smoothie (banana-strawberry, for example) and that is something he will drink at snack time. His snack boxes with pieces of fruit, on the contrary, always came back home untouched. I love Nomnom kids reusable pouches. They are so handy and are easy to clean! (Even dishwasher safe!) They're also great as snack on the road for Amelia. I don't need to find a spot to feed her with a spoon because this she can easily drink herself. Fill the pouches with some homemade goodness (no preservatives, no added sugars,...) and you're ready to go. You can even freeze some to use later. Another advantage: you're contributing to the environment by wasting less. Be sure to check out my Instagram and Facebook account for the NomNomKids GIVEAWAY I’m hosting! I ordered my pouches on Bol.com but you can also order them on www.nomnomkids.co.uk.
Make smoothies together
Elliot loves to help out in the kitchen and I’ve noticed that he’s more inclined to eat (or at least try something) if he’s helped to prepare it. In the mornings or as an afternoon snack I’ll get him excited to make “ice cream” together. We’ll mix some frozen fruits (strawberry, mango, pineapple,…) and add a banana, some coconut milk and yoghurt. Add a fancy straw and hello vitamins!
Have a food to fall back on
Finally I try to live by the rule of always introducing new foods along with something I know he likes. Even if that is sausage,… Gone are the days I was raising a vegetarian!
I try to keep my cool at the dinner table and it seems that slowly but surely we are walking away from the phase of refusing anything new or green. I would love to hear about how you cope with frustrating eating debacles like these?
Read more of Natalia Stasenko's food tips on https://feedingbytes.com.