In other news, we have been getting some pretty hefty amounts of zucchini from Abbe Hills lately, and we LOVE zucchini in the Porter House so I will be making copious amounts of zucchini bread, stuffed zucchini, and other zucchini recipes. I will be sure to post my adventures in zucchini for sure!
So, onto tonight's topic. I have been recently getting tons of questions on my e-mail asking how I get my son to eat such a wide variety of foods. It is true, I am blessed to have a two year old (tomorrow- oh I can't believe my baby is 2! I just want him to stay small and cute forever!) who eats pretty much anything I put in front of him. However, he is starting to assert his independence when it comes to food, even with things I know he likes. For example, right now he is really into eating only bananas and kiwi and nothing else. Here are some things that have worked for me and for a friend of mine who has a VERY picky eater and came to me for help.
- Do not give up on a food after only presenting it once or twice. Children need to eat a food at least 15 times and sometimes more than 30 times before he or she decides if he or she likes it or not.
- Present food in a variety of fun ways. Sometimes we have color themed lunches, like today we had a green theme where we had spinach ravioli with pesto sauce, sliced cucumbers, and steamed broccoli. You could do a rainbow meal, yellow meal, red meal, be creative! You could also cut food into fun shapes. Offer dips like ketchup, salad dressing, barbecue sauce. Kids love food they can dip.
- If your child refuses to eat a meal, don't offer something else. I know it seems mean, but kids are not going to starve themselves. What I do, is if Daniel refuses to eat his dinner, for example, I put it aside and then when it comes around to snack time, he can eat his dinner. If he still chooses not to eat his dinner, then he goes to bed without. Fortunately, so far, this happens rarely in my house, but it did happen the other night, and he ate his dinner for a bedtime snack.
- I only offer milk now during meal times, this way Daniel doesn't fill up on milk the whole day and then won't eat his meals. The rest of the day he drinks water. I never offer juice, because that will also deter good eating habits. The exceptions to this rule are prune juice (for constipation) and orange juice (when he has a cold).
- I offer all meals and snacks at the table. We do not eat in front of the television. We do not eat in the car. It is my belief that it is highly important for people to eat at the table, taking time to eat, not rushing through a meal or a snack. I believe this is SO important because by taking the time to eat, seated at the table, you are less likely to over eat. Children who eat primarily at the table are less likely to become obese, and more likely to have more positive eating habits.
- Offer a choice of two things that area acceptable to you when possible, especially for toddlers who are developing their sense of autonomy. I say to Daniel, "you can have a banana or a cheese stick for snack." Most of the time he will choose one of the two choices, if on the off chance he wants something different I say, "no, we don't have____ or no, we eat ______ for _____, you can have ______ or _______." If Daniel is persistent about having the other thing that is not one of the choices, I just say "oh well, I guess you aren't that hungry" and he goes without, usually this results in a major tantrum, but that definitely does not get him what he wants. Most of the time though, this is a great tactic.
- I encourage the use of utensils, and not eating with hands. If I offer a snack such as grapes or crackers, then hands are fine, but at meals, we use utensils. Daniel is still at the age where he uses his hands to eat a lot of his food, but he is learning to use a fork and a small child sized knife and is doing well. Using utensils promotes good eating habits and table manners.
- At least one meal per day is eaten as a family. Sometimes David works late, so we have breakfast together on those days. On weekends, we have lunch and dinner together as a family. Eating together not only promotes good eating habits, but also promotes good social habits. Check out my post on eating meals together for more information on this.
- I let Daniel help me in the kitchen. Even though he is 2 (oh, my baby is getting so big...I can't believe it!) he is an excellent helper! Even if he isn't directly helping me cook I give him a job so he thinks he's helping. Kids who help out in the kitchen are more likely to try new and different foods!
Until next time, happy and HEALTHY cooking and EATING!