It’s no secret that every kid has a mind of their own, so it’s no different when it comes to food. Here’s how you can approach your kids as the individuals that they are.
In a world where everyone is a “nutrition enthusiast”, many children are missing out on a plethora of good food and nutrition. As a mother, I have always avoided extremes, especially when it comes to my kids. I aim to make my home a healthy environment that includes both nourishing foods and play foods.
My only goal is that my children learn to love and respect all food, and what it does for their bodies.
Aiming to raise “foodies” over “health nuts”, I let them try all cuisines and flavors and do my best to not “hide” food. We strive to be honest with them, and let them learn to love vegetables prepared in various ways. Dinnertime is sacred and connection is our primary goal, not a food war.
While dinnertime can be approached similarly with all children, it’s no secret that each child is unique. That’s why it’s important to treat their differences in the best way we possibly can. Here’s how you can approach each different type of eater.
1. The “Cool” Kid
This kid wants to be apart of everything. If most of the kids are eating school lunch, it’s embarrassing to bring a lunch his mom made. If the kids in the neighborhood are riding their bikes to 7-11 for a Slurpee and you say, “no” – his life is over. He will turn down lunch you made for him and go eat pizza at the neighbors. He’s not picky, just defiant.
What to do: Don’t deprive, and let him be a kid. Be upfront and honest, and teach him. If he’s an active kid, incorporate conversations about food before and after a game or practice. Share why he doesn’t have to do what everyone else does. Provide autonomy and allow him to discover what he loves to eat.
2. The Eater
This kid loves all food, and is also a “people pleaser”. She will tell you how good something is with profound exaggeration. She loves anything from Cheetos to salad. At social gatherings, she wants to try everything. She seems to be hungry all day long, and it may appear that she eats when she is bored. She gets really excited about food.
What to do: All kids need to find an activity that they love and builds their confidence. Often, that goes along with a kids who loves to eat. Help her find movement that brings her joy and keep her moving. Set specific meal and snack times, but don’t demonize or idolize any food. Teach her that all foods fit, and talk about hunger and fullness cues. However, never talk about her body. Her body is a gift and it needs food to feel well.
3. So Picky
This kid is fearful to try new foods. Anything green scares her, and she loves the word “no” and will throw a major tantrum when you say, “its dinner time!” She doesn’t eat much and takes tiny bites. Even yummy treats are very rarely finished. If you let her, she would just eat macaroni and cheese every single day.
What to do: This situation requires a higher amount of patience for just about every meal. Give her options, allowing her to have “control” and choose. If she picks three things and only take a few bites of each, let it go and allow that to be a win. On the day she eats like a champ, let her know it! Pressure is never the answer; food freedom always wins.
4. The Blank Slate
Babies are innate Intuitive Eaters, so don’t mess with them! They will let you know when they are hungry, and when they’ve had enough. This is a wonderful time in which they are learning to eat and feed themselves, so let them make messes!
What to do: Once a baby is six months old they can start on real food. Soft vegetables are a great first choice. For example, avocados require no work: just slice and spoon. Sweet potatoes or beets can be roasted and mashed with a fork. If you want to puree, cook up a batch, and freeze in ice cube trays. Or instead of pureeing, you can opt to chop up cooked food. Put small bites of food on her tray, and let her get that pincer grasp in action. As they get older and more coordinated, give them bigger pieces.
Remember, it’s OK if mealtimes feel unpredictable; after all, your children are unique individuals.
Adapted from the original article.
Devrie Pettit, MS, RDN is a non-diet Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a private practice in South Jordan, Utah. As a wife and mother-of-four, raising her children as foodies rather than health nuts is one of her top priorities. Devrie offers private nutrition therapy, Intuitive Eating group coaching, and a journaling subscription for nourishment and self-care. Learn more about Devrie at Be Happily Fed.