November is American Thanksgiving. We really do have so much to be thankful for! What a good time to practice thankfulness ourselves and to teach our children the attitude of gratitude. Let ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ be common words in your home.
With Thanksgiving this month and Christmas and New Years soon, food is on our minds. There will be all kinds of foods around that only seem to appear once a year. So with all these strange foods and many more sweets around than usual, mealtime can become a battleground. Rather than try to make your toddler face new foods at every turn, why not try to keep it simple. Stick to the basics for your toddler as much as possible, even while you enjoy the treats of the season. There will be plenty more years ahead to encourage your child to be a gourmand.
Ah me, what a big topic. Since we cannot cover all the questions about food, we will focus on, how do we help our children eat balanced diets and learn to make good food choices?
There are so many sources of information: BabyCenter.com, AskDrSears.com, FamilyDoctor.org, WebMed.com and Parents.com. I’m going to attempt to summarize what I read and answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
These are some comments about food, food preparation, and food presentation that were mentioned in two or more of the sources I read.
1. Toddlers are unpredictable and erratic in their eating. It is better to strive for balanced and proper amounts of food by the week, rather than by the day. If your doctor is satisfied with your child’s weight and height/growth and proportions, you are probably meeting his or her calorie needs adequately.
2. Never force-feed your child. Serve a wide variety of healthy food in appealing ways and not too much milk or sugary foods or drinks. Your child will not starve himself. Force-feeding most often backfires in the long-run.
3. Don’t bribe with dessert or threaten to withhold sweets as an enticement to eat healthy foods. This can cause your child to crave sweets and hate the nutritious food.
4. Remember how small your child’s tummy is. Picture their tummy is the size of their fist. Serve 1 Tablespoon (15ml) for each year of age for each type of food at a meal. This means smaller meals with healthy snacks between meals. Much better to serve smaller amounts and offer seconds than overwhelm their appetite by seeing too much on the plate.
5. Preserve nutrition as you prepare food: steam instead of boiling and bake instead of frying. Reduce salt, sugar, and fats. And make every bite count for nutrition.
6. Serve milk or water at meals. Don’t give more than 4 ounces (125 ml) fruit juice/day. Fruit juice is really sugary. It is better to opt for some fresh fruit in place of juice.
7. A couple no-nos: No TV and no toys during meals. Don’t allow mealtime power plays. If they don’t eat, allow them to leave the table and then provide a healthy food snack of your choice an hour or so later.
8. Find ways to make food fun:
- Get children involved in meal preparation and maybe even shopping.
- Try fun presentations: roll ups, fancy-cut cheese, meat, or sandwiches.
- Children often love dips or spreads on meat or veggies instead of casseroles. Try yogurt, nut spreads, humus, avocado dip, as well as the ever favorite, ketchup etc.
- Arrange their plate to make a face like: olive eyes, tomato ears, mushroom nose, and bell pepper smile or a carrot and celery julienne house with cheese square windows, a pickle door and hot dog slice sidewalk.
9. Fortify, don’t fool. In other words, add nutrition, but never lie about ingredients. Eventually, he will find you out and then not trust you about new foods. It can take five or more introductions to a new food before a child will begin eating it. Make trying new foods an adventure not a battle ground.
10. Finally and probably most importantly, be a good example of a healthy eater. Children will find out your bad habits and mimic you.
I hope this will give you some fresh ideas for helping your child develop good eating habits.