Archive for March, 2011

Food Choices Are Not Erratic

Today in class I noticed that a child whose mother thought no longer ate cheese was eating cheese.  I asked mom about this and she responded that since the child was offered cheese in class several weeks ago she is eating it again at home, but not orange cheese.  I explained that although this seemed erratic, it is typical and normal.  Our children eat not just what they know they enjoy due to taste, smell, appearance or texture, but what they are nutritionally drawn toward.

 So how do we, as mindful a parents, know what our children need nutritionally each meal or day?  We don’t, so our job is to offer a variety of healthy food over the course of the day.   Don’t fall into the trap of offering what you think your child will eat or not offering foods that they have previously refused.  This back fires in two ways.  One, even though a child ate a food once, or even if that food has been the favorite food for a few days, that doesn’t necessarily indicate the child will eat it at this time.  Two, if you only offer foods you believe your child will accept, you will slowly narrow food choices and eventually decide that you have a picky eater.

 When it is time for a snack or meal, think: what would I like my child to eat, what do I have, what is manageable at this time (do you want to cook or not, do you have a short or long time for eating, etc?).  Once you have made this choice put the food in front of your child.  They can eat or not.  Of course you can always choose to offer the current favorite food once or twice a day, as part of any meal or snack. But keep rotating in a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, dairy products, beans, nuts, seeds, oils, and fish as every food has it’s own unique nutritional profile.  You have done your job.

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An Unscientific Study

As mindful as we try to be, there are times when our child’s behavior seems to make no sense to us.  This is no rational pattern or reason nor is there any developmental theory to support what we observe.  However you are looking at only one child.  I have had the pleasure of observing children eat and talking to parents for the past 20 years, in a child care settings and in classes with parents present.  I have made a few unscientific, non-research based observations.

Some babies will prefer to drink their meals.  No matter how mindfully you set the stage for a meal your baby or child drinks but not eats or very little.  I have heard this more often from parents of boys than of girls.  Babies between the ages of 6 months and 12 months should be fed on demand.  If your baby is able to take solids, offer solid food before the breast, bottle or cup.  If you have a drinker over 12 months of age and able to take solids, you can and should limit milk to 16 ounces (2 cups) a day.  Your child will probably not like this and may put up quite a fuss.  But as a mindful parent you will tell your child that to be healthy he needs to try more than milk.  You don’t need to force solids, but by limiting milk your child will soon increase their desire for solids.

The other common observation reported to me by parents is that a baby who once took semi soft solids is now refusing them.  When I suggest that the parent try crunchy and more textured foods the baby usually responds by eating once again.  It seems that for some babies, once they have experienced soft solids they are ready to move on.  This sometimes happens at the same time the baby is determined to feed themselves.  So go with it.  Your baby will come back to semi-solids eventually, but now they want to explore what is new.  Embrace this and let them try some Cheerios or especially made infant puffs.  Put a few in front of your baby and see what happens.