Once again I am hosting a guest blogger once a week throughout the summer. I’ve already got a quite a few lined up for you but I do have a few spots still open if you are interested in being included. Drop me an email with your post idea :)
This week’s topic while not directly related to organizing is definitely one about simplicity and one I can relate to wholeheartedly. As you know my middle child has severe food allergies and as a result when he was younger he had some serious food aversions. He ate next to nothing and it was exhausting physically and mentally fighting with him every day. This advice presented here is the same advice that we were given many years ago and it changed everything for us (especially the Ellyn Satter technique) and I am so thankful we came through that very dark time and are now able to be a success story for someone else who may be experiencing something similar.
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, is a registered dietitian, mother of two and creator of www.RaiseHealthyEaters.com, a blog dedicated to providing parents with credible nutrition advice.
As moms, we take time to organize our closets, diaper bags and kitchen cabinets. We also plan our weekly meals and grocery lists. All of these tasks help our family life run without too many glitches.
But what you may not realize is that organizing the way you feed your kids, like the other tasks you do, helps to free up your time and relieve stress. And it might even help your kids eat a little healthier too.
So here are 5 things you can start doing to make feeding time more efficient, pleasant and a lot more fun.
1. Provide structured meals and snacks: What are you supposed to do when your child asks for food all day long? Do you give in or say no and watch the meltdown happen?
The easiest solution is to have structure around mealtimes. That means meals and snacks are around the same times most days and, when home, are eaten at the kitchen table. Once your child understands this routine won’t change, they’ll stop asking for food as much. But when they do ask you can remind them when the next meal is coming. And if it’s a sweet treat they want, you can tell them you’ll plan it for a future mealtime (You might be surprised how much better this works than saying “no”).
This also helps kids learn to separate food from other activities like watching TV, boredom and upset feelings. They are also more likely to be hungry (not famished) for meals and less likely to eat too much or too little.
2. Split the Responsibility with Your Child: Most prominent health organizations support the Ellyn Satter Division of Responsibility of Feeding meaning parents decide the when, what and where of feeding and children decide the whether and how much of eating.
When mealtime becomes tense it’s usually the result of either the parent or child taking over the other person’s job. So if your kids have been calling the shots at mealtime, let them know that you decide what and when they eat. And if you have been trying to get them to eat more or less, back off and let them decide how much or whether to eat.
Research shows that kids are more likely to try new foods when not pressured. In fact, exposure and role modeling are shown to be the most effective in getting little ones to be more adventurous eaters.
3. Offer both Types of Food: You might be hesitant to try new family meals with your kids because they won’t eat it. But by not offering new foods, they miss the chance to expand their palate. Once again, it’s all about strategy.
A 2007 review study in Current Nutrition & Food Science reveals that kids are more likely to try new or previously disliked foods when they are paired with familiar foods. So instead of plopping a whole new meal in front of them, make sure that there is one or two other items you know they’ll eat like fruit, bread or certain vegetables.
I strategically plan my dinner meals with my picky-eating daughter in mind. If dinner is going to be a new entree I make sure lunch is an old standby but I might try a new side. All week I serve foods she loves with other foods and she’s gradually expanding her repertoire.
4. Provide structure with beverages too: Kids can fill up on milk or juice causing them to eat less nutritious foods. Don’t get me wrong, milk and juice add important nutrition but too much can displace other foods in the diet.
In her books feeding expert Ellyn Satter recommends water as the in-between beverage of choice. So buy a special water cup and always have that near your child whether or not they ask for it. You are teaching them that water is the best thirst quencher.
Get in the habit of offering milk or juice with meals. When it comes to juice the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting juice to 4-6 ounces for children 1 to 6 years old and 8-12 ounces for kids 7-18 years old. In order to meet calcium needs, 2 to 8 year olds need 2 cups of milk (or equivalents) and 9 to 18 year olds need three.
5. Don’t forget about sweets: Research shows that restricting kids’ access to sweet or empty-calorie foods can promote their intake of such foods. So what’s a parent to do?
Make sure to include your kids’ favorite indulgence one to two times per week. I like offering these items at snack time so they don’t compete with other nutritional items at the meal. So it might be cookies and milk at one snack and chips at another. This shows kids that while they don’t have these items all the time, they will get them on a regular basis. And this helps them learn moderation.
You’ll be amazed how smoothly feeding goes when the structure and flexible rules are in place. Of course it’s okay for parents to veer from this structure from time to time. At birthday parties my daughter sips on juice and often grazes on food.
But most of time she has structure which will help her grow into a healthy and happy eater. And it keeps me sane, which is important too.
How does feeding go at your house? Any challenges or successes you want to share?