Hi. I’m Angelina, creator of OneTwoThrive Kids, a parent coaching resource which helps families develop healthy relationships with food, eating, and one another. Today, we’re taking over the Roots Family blog to share what we’ve learned at the family dining table so that you can serve it at yours.
The next time you feed your child, stop for just a moment to ask yourself, “Would I eat that?”
When Lauren, the health-conscious Mama of the Roots Family Chiropractic team, posed this question to parents on Instagram (yes, you should definitely follow them!), we jumped at the opportunity to discuss it. We’ve seen first-hand the many different ways parents feed their children, and know that the answer to Lauren’s important question could be at the heart of your whole family’s health!
Does your child eat the same foods as you?
If you look at your child’s food and think, “No I am not eating that, and the only reason they do is because they won’t eat anything else!” then you aren’t alone. We get a lot of questions about “picky” eating at OTTkids, mostly from parents who eat well but are concerned that their children are eating less healthful, more processed, foods. The biggest concern is that these foods, which are less nutrient-dense and higher in sugar, are the only foods their children will accept, and parents have all but thrown in the towel on trying to get them to eat any other way.
There are many different paths that lead us to the dilemma of kids eating different and less nutritious food than Mom and Dad, but there are things we can do today to get started on (or change direction toward) a healthier one. Even if mealtimes feel more like food fights, or if your child is currently too young to have developed selective eating habits, which usually happens somewhere between a child’s 1st and 2nd birthdays, we’ve got some tips to get your kids eating more like you do; without bribing, coaxing, yelling, or tricking them to eat a single green thing!
What you can do today!
1. Eat at least one meal together each day. Children learn what is safe and acceptable to eat by watching parents and caregivers, and have been doing so for thousands of years (our post on “the omnivore’s dilemma” is coming soon). Even if they eventually decide that asparagus isn’t their favorite, kids are far more likely to try a new food if they see you eating and enjoying it, too.
2. Select your child’s food options. You are the adult and parent. No matter how much or little you think you know about food, you know more about it than your child. They want to grow up to be just like you, and this includes eating the food you eat, but, they will choose to eat sweets and other less nutritious foods if we let them! Select your family’s food and include natural sugars, starch, protein, and fat with every meal, including snacks.
3. Allow them to choose from what is served and don’t pressure. Whenever possible, offer family style meals, always offer one food you know your child will eat, and let them do the rest. Children are born with the inherent drive and ability to feed themselves. When we trust them to make their own decisions about the (mostly healthy) food we offer, they learn to listen to their hunger and fullness cues. When we don’t fully empower our kids to make decisions at the table, or try to take over their job of eating by pressuring them to eat anything (even one bite) they can act out by refusing to eat, throwing tantrums (and food!), and making meals about behavior rather than eating.
4. Set a schedule and stick to it! Children need to eat every 2 ½ - 3 hours, so plan what those meals (and mini-meals in the case of snacks) look like ahead of time so you aren’t stuck without an option when your child gets “hangry” and you have to settle for convenience! Setting a schedule is a great way for your child to know that they will regularly eat, so even if they decide that “I don’t want that” and refuse to eat one meal, you can say without guilt, “then this meal is over and you can eat again at the next scheduled time - there is no other food until then”.
5. Keep Trying. These tips are simple, but not easy, especially if your child has been eating “their way” for a while. Whether you are implementing specific meal times and sticking with them, introducing more veggies or new foods, or combating the effects of your child’s high sugar threshold (if you’ve ever tried giving up sugar, you’ll understand the challenges) it may take some time to see a change in your child’s eating, and maybe even your own feeding, behavior. If you create a plan that makes you feel good about feeding, empowers your children to eat, and stick with it - the change will come and you’ll all be enjoying the same meal together soon!
If you’re not sure about how to make these changes with your family or are just getting started on your feeding adventure with a new eater, OneTwoThrive Kids can help. We’ve coached families through feeding challenges, helped them learn to love mealtimes together, and believe we can help you do the same - no matter where you are today.
Do you your kids eat the same meals as you, or do you have experience with “picky” eaters? Share your stories with us here so we can learn from you as well. So many of us are responsible for helping to form children's’ ideas about food - please share this with anyone you think might benefit!