Monday, July 25, 2011

The Mom in Me Monday about Picky Eaters!

Picky Eaters!

As a Mom or a parent for that matter it is your job to ensure your child is prepared to enter the great big world and be successful, so aside from having some sort of food allergy one of my major pet peeves are PICKY EATERS!

For one thing you are the adult and you are supposed to be in charge, so don’t become a side order cook and enforce some rules to ensure your children have some good eating habits. All children go through stages and sometimes the “I don’t like that” stage is one of them. But I don’t know how to state this clearly enough that this is a stage! Not a constant, it is a scientific fact that as we age our taste buds change so don’t limit your children by letting them think that just because they don’t like peas today eliminates them from liking them at a later date. Their tastes will change sometimes within months.

So from the start of their lives you have to offer a variety of good foods for their taste buds to learn from. Right now they are just developing and so unless you have an allergic reaction keep offering them the foods that they do not like as well as the ones that they do. This is not to be mean it is to ensure your children eat right. If you only offer your toddler fruit because that is what he eats the best then you are just developing his sweet tooth and he has not had a chance to develop his taste buds for other healthy meals.

I am not suggesting you starve you children, but they need to learn when to eat and when not to. So that being said you have to start a routine of breakfast, lunch and dinner all about the same time of day and with the same type of setting (like sitting at a table with family.) I know you have heard it before but it really works your child will eat better if you develop a healthy routine and eat at the table with family where he/she learns what is expected of them by watching you. That is really how they learn. Pull up the high chair right up to the table so they know that they are part of this wonderful family.

When my children were still in the highchair I gave them Cheerios or Puffs to help them practice their dexterity. It is hard at first for their little fingers to grasp the Cheerios off of the tray but keep putting a few on the tray with each meal and eventually they will get it. I also placed a baby spoon on the tray each time they ate as well, that way they practice holding utensils too. You will be amazed how fast they catch on and it is fun to play drop the spoon and Mommy picks it up about a million times or more while they figure it out.

All of these little things set the stage for the big picture, healthy eating. Introduce new foods with different flavors and textures to your child. Then around the time they are toddlers they will try to start showing some independence by saying I don’t like that or just plan turning their noses up at food. They will refuse to eat even. That is OK this is just a stage. So keep offering them the good foods and a well-balanced diet and keep your routine the exactly the same. It is really important that they see everyone else enjoying food and eating at the table. If at this time they will only eat one like pasta or fruit. If you are really are concerned about them not eating at all, you can give them a little of the one thing but don’t make it the first thing they get and not the major part of the meal. You still have to try.

Tell them they have to taste the other stuff, even if they don’t like it. Then you end it there, and the picky eater does not receive any other foods until the next meal. No snacks. This is the hard part for most parents because we don’t want them to starve, and you feel like there is no way a kid with that much energy could survive with only one pop tart all day. But they can. They will eat when they are hungry, if you can stand it. Keep the meals the same if they eat all of their meal, then they can have snacks. If they didn’t eat all their meal hold your ground and no snacks until the next meal time and remind them of that.

Here is why you have to be strong:

If you give in and they only eat chicken nuggets then for the rest of the next several years you will be making two meals every breakfast, lunch and dinner. Do you really want you toddler to not have all of the nutrition he needs to build a healthy body or even brain? I want my children to be healthy and grow a very strong brain. I want them to go to pre-school and enjoy eating with all of the other the other children and not be singled out.

Secondly you are the parent even if you are giving in about eating you are telling your children that your rules don’t really matter and if they just whine a bit it will work every time and you will give in. Are you willing to risk they won’t try this trick in another aspect of having to follow any of your other rules? I am not I want a child that knows to respect me, listen to me, and understand that in life you have to follow rules.

Next your child really is trying to test his boundaries all the time and this is one way he can win if you let him. Then they will be in control and sadly this means a toddler is running your life. That does not sound so smart. So take charge be the adult and help set the stage for good eating habits for the rest of your child’s life. Not only are you building good eating habits but you are also building manners! What? How do eating habits your toddler has translate into manners? Let me tell you; if your child has learned that he must at least taste and try something with an open mind these wonderful manners will carry over when they are at another person’s home. It is positively rude to say “That’s disgusting, I don’t like that,” or anything of the sort when someone just went to the trouble of cooking for you. How rude!

One way to teach your children this respect and set of manners is to use the Five Bite Rule at your home. This is a simple rule. If you are under five years you have to talk a bite one bite for every year old you are. If you are two then you have to eat and try two bites. If you are four years old you have to eat four bites. Then after your fifth birthday you have to take five bites, but after that it is always five bites. If you are twelve years old you only have to eat five bites. Oh they will baulk, and whine and pitch a fit but you have to stand your ground make sure they actually take a real bite and not a small tiny one. Be strong.

Here is the thing kid’s tastes change and so if they don’t like it today they might like it the next time they try it. My oldest son used to hate this chicken casserole I made and I had to make him eat five bites. What a bunch of moaning and groaning he pulled about having to eat it. Then I didn’t make it again for about five months, but when he tried it he said, “Mom this is so wonderful, why don’t you make it all time!” If I had made him try it he would have never known how great it was. Then you have kick start eaters like my youngest son, you have to kick start his meal to get him going. So when I make him eat his mandatory bites he says, “Wow this is good Mom,” and eats the rest. I just had to get him going.

So give your kids some home training and then you know their manners will be good when you are not around. These are all of the lessons to teach about right and wrong, and being rude is wrong.

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