My children have never been good eaters, and it is so incredibly frustrating. One of my strongest instincts is to feed them, but they’ve resisted my efforts every step of the way. As babies, they were just plain uninterested. They never wanted baby food (jarred or homemade) and barely ate any solids until they were well over a year old. I’d watch my friends’ kids happily opening their mouths like baby birds for their next spoonful of goodness, and I’d shake my head in dismay because my kids just never did that.
Even though we’ve followed the same approach that my fellow San Francisco Moms Blog writer, Robin, lays out in Grooming Good Eaters, our kids still aren’t adventurous eaters. In fact, my almost-two-year-old son is holding steady to a diet of various carbohydrates and cheeses. So, here’s how we get by with a couple not so good eaters.
- Limit milk and juice intake before meals. This is still an issue with my son. He’s always loved milk and wants to use it as an aperitif, when, in fact, it fills him up, so we avoid giving it to him for about an hour before meal time. If you need to wean your child off of this habit, cut the milk or juice with water to make it a little less filling.
- Avoid a power struggle. The desire to nourish our kids is incredibly strong, but we can only offer them food. We can’t force them to eat it. Kids learn quickly that they have some control over this part of their life, and they like to test it. The more you try to force your child to eat, the less they’ll want to do it. So keep it casual and avoid pushing the issue.
- Keep offering a variety of healthy foods during mealtime, but serve at least one food they like to eat. Yes, they may only eat that one thing, but at least you’ll know their tummies are full. One day, they may surprise you and try a piece of lettuce.
- Accept that you may have a grazer. My kids love to snack, but it makes them less interested in having a proper meal. I’m always trying to find a balance between letting them graze and serving them a solid spread. Here’s what’s worked for us lately. I prep two bento-style lunch boxes out of which they can eat throughout the day. I like Yumbox, but there are plenty of options out there. I’ve even heard of using an old craft organizer with lots of tiny compartments, as a less expensive alternative. After breakfast, my kids can go to the fridge at their leisure and get out their “snack box.” I mix up the contents each day with the goal of keeping it healthy with a few treats to keep them interested. It’s cut down on snack requests and gives me peace of mind that they’re eating healthily. Sometimes they still want a hot lunch, like quesadillas or mac ‘n cheese (Did I mention my son insists on a strict diet of carbs and cheese?). Other days, their snack boxes keep them filled until dinner.
- Follow the advice from Grooming Good Eaters. It’s right. Also check out Dining With Children: Eight Tips to Survive the Most Difficult Meal of the Day, which is dinner, of course.
Now, take “feeding the kids” off your list of things to worry about. If you’re providing food for them, then you’re doing it right. They’ll survive, even if it’s only on carbs and cheese for a little while, and, chances are, they’ll expand their dining repertoire naturally over time.
Do you have your own tricks for feeding picky eaters? Let us know!