Sometimes I like to write about nutrition topics that my family or friends have questions about, sometimes I like to write about common nutrition issues I’ve seen in patients, and other times I like to write about what I’m currently struggling with. Kind of like giving myself a little pep talk! We all need pep talks once in awhile right?! Well, on this Monday at the end of summer (and the olympics), I need a little mealtime pep talk (and a life pep talk actually…if anyone has one of those in their back pocket :).
FOOD THROWING: As you can see from the picture, this is quite the issue in our house these days. The good news is, I may have a future baseball player. The bad news is, I have to mop my floor every night. I’m obviously not an expert, but I do have a few thoughts on how to solve this problem. First, don’t overcrowd your child’s plate. Children don’t need as much food as we do and I’ve noticed with G that when he’s done eating, if there is still food on his plate he starts throwing. Second, I’ve noticed that the more I react to G’s food throwing antics, the more he does it. Children are motivated by attention (good or bad) so, even though his food throwing drives me up the wall, I try to not make a big deal out of it. Third, once they start throwing food, simply remove them from the situation. Let your little’s know that food throwing is not allowed at the dinner table and that they are welcome to return to their meal if they are done throwing it on the ground.
CLEAN YOUR PLATE CLUB: Are any of you parents members of the “clean your plate club”? If you require your sprout to eat everything on their plate before leaving the table I would recommend you reconsider your ways. Why? Well, children are really good at regulating their appetites and you may be affecting that natural instinct by requiring them to eat more than they are hungry for (especially if we serve them more than they need). Second, remember the Division of Responsibility? If not, just know it’s your job to provide food and your child’s job to decide what and how much they’ll eat. You can start this fairly young. For example, I offer G 3 meals per day and then up to 3 snacks per day (depending on his appetite, that’s an individual call). If he doesn’t eat a lot at dinner I give him some milk before bed and maybe a small snack (that would be included in one of his 3 possible snacks). Sometimes he’ll eat a big breakfast the next morning, and sometimes he won’t, depending on his appetite. Either way, it’s up to him!
SHORT ORDER CHEF: Do you feel like you’re making a personalized meal for each member of your family? If so, STOP. You’re job is to provide a single healthy meal that your family can choose to enjoy. Catering to their preferences only perpetuates the picky eating eating cycle, and probably makes you dread meal times. Simplify your life and quit your job as a short order chef. Use your extra time to encourage your littles to eat the meal you prepared (it may take some extra encouragement at first!).
MIND YOUR MANNERS: It’s never too early to start teaching your babes manners. As soon as they can start eating at the table with the family (even from a high chair), encourage them to be polite by demonstrating good table manners yourself. Let your toddlers practice using utensils to help them transition from finger foods then, as they grow older, encourage them to not reach across others for food, and teach them how to set the table. Never ridicule your littles when their manners aren’t up to par, but definitely help correct them with kindness. And last but definitely not least, no electronics at the dinner table (including your own)!
These are just a few of the mishaps that are happening at my house, if you have others you’d like to discuss, please let me know. I think it would be particularly amazing if we all commented with tips and suggestions to broaden the discussion. So, please feel free to share any thoughts you may have on any of these mishaps (or any others). I know I would benefit from any additional ideas, and I’m sure others would too!