Posts Tagged 'food acceptance'

10 Days or 10 Years

 

I have been advising parents and child care workers that a young child (ages 1-5) may need to see a new food 8-10 times before they may choose to eat it.  This
recommendation is based on peer reviewed studies from the best nutrition based
journals.  I guess none of these studies had enough time or money to study children over ten years.  Well I did. Granted my study population consists only of 1 child, my son.  However I have seen remarkable new food preferences and habits develop over the years, with a crescendo this year when he voluntarily started asking for and eating broccoli, eggs, and mixed green salad that includes raw spinach, carrots, jicama, red peppers and other vegetables.

My son’s case is even more poignant, as for 3 years he had not grown in height and he preferred fun foods to most healthy foods.  Last fall he was diagnosed with
Crohn’s, an autoimmune disease that strikes at the digestive tract.  Many children with Crohn’s have stunted growth.  Then my son started receiving treatment for Crohn’s.  He started to grow (3 inches in 9 months), and started to eat a wider variety of foods.  I believe that now that his body can absorb the nutrients it needed to support growth; it demands that he consume them.

So, keep eating what you want your child to eat.  Offer a variety of foods.  Give no food more or less distinction beyond being a healthy food or a food just for fun.
Then sit back and watch the show.  I have seen my daughter gravitate to dairy foods, which she had previously shunned, as she reached her pre-teen years.  This is a time when the body needs more calcium and without knowing this she asked for cheese, pizza, and yogurt.  My son has gone in and out of wanting raisinsin his lunch.  When he didn’t want them he told me that he hates raisins.  But then some months later he would ask for them.

Keep doing what you know you should do.  It may take 10 days or even 10 years for the message to sink in.  But once a child chooses to eat a food, they will eat it for a lifetime.  This cannot be said for foods a child is forced to eat.

 

Beverly Pressey is a Registered
Dietician with Master’s degrees in Education and Nutrition and
specializes in working with care givers of babies and children.  Beverly
has worked with individuals, presented at conferences, consulted with child
care centers, taught continuing education and college classes, and presented at
numerous parent groups.  As an experienced counselor, cook, teacher,
speaker and a mother of 2, she has a realistic understanding of infant/child
eating patterns plus the perspective of a busy parent.  Beverly lives in
Seattle, Washington, find out more about her and her book at www.creatinghealthyeaters.com

 

 

 

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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.

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.

Kids Are On Automatic

My son has never been an adventurous eater.  In the past I have referred to him as the camel, waiting for fun food and loading up and by-passing most of the healthy stuff.  But an amazing transition has occurred.  My son was recently diagnosed with Crohn’s, an autoimmune disease that affects the digestive tract.  Many children with Crohn’s are small in height for their age, as is my son.  Before his treatment for Crohn’s he had not grown at all in 3 years, he is currently 9 years old and wears size 6 pants. 

Now that he is being treated for this condition an amazing transformation has taken place.  He is eating, a lot.  And he is chosing healthy nutritious foods.  He is also asking to taste foods that I have been serving for years but he has previously rejected.  A typical day for my son is:  2 multigrain waffles with syrup, a few nuts and raisins, pretzels, yogurt, an apple or pear, 1/2 cup to 1 cup refried beans with melted cheese, enriched chocolate soy milk, another apple or pear, 2 large pieces of vegetarian lasagna, carrot and cucumber sticks, 1 cup of low-fat ice cream, maybe another waffle or pretzel.  I offered to buy my son a snack at an asian grocery store, anything he wanted including cookies or snack foods.  He chose crab sushi, gobbling down 5 of the 6 rolls as I wandered the aisles. 

But what is so gratifying to me is that  his body is forcing him to eat both more quantity and greater quality as it is now ready to grow.  Since October when he started treatment he has grown 1/2 inch and gain 1 pound, not bad for a kid that hasn’t grown in three years.  This validates what I have been teaching parents for year: offer healthy foods to your child and they will be drawn to what they need.

No Dessert Unless You Eat Your Dinner

“No dessert unless you eat your dinner.”  Does that remind you of yourself when you come home from work?  Is that how you want your kids to remember you? As the parent that is gone all day, comes home, yells at the kids and denies them dessert?  Probably not.  You are likely a very loving, concerned, hard working parent.  So don’t let meal time make you in to the bad guy or girl.

 When the family sits down to eat, don’t comment on what your kids are eating or not.  Whoever provided the meal has already done the adult job, offering appropriate food at appropriate intervals.  At this point you have three jobs.  First is to model table manners, and correct inappropriate table manners.  Second is to model food acceptance by eating and enjoying the food.  Third is to have conversation with your children.  Don’t talk about anything that would make your child uncomfortable at the table, find other times to discuss problems.  Family meals are not the time to reprimand for past poor judgment, errors, or moments of downright meanness, or to warn against similar errors in the future.  Think of the dinner table as a place where everyone comes with a clean slate.

 If your child refuses to eat a certain food, or eat nothing at all, be nonjudgmental.  Feel free to remind them that if they are hungry now is the time to eat and that there will be no food offered after dinner.  Don’t let them have anything that is not on the table.  Don’t let them make a snack after dinner.  You don’t have to punish them for not eating; hunger will be a natural consequence if they choose not to eat. 

 Some children have eaten enough calories (energy) and met their nutritional needs in the 4-5 eating opportunities they had previous to dinner time.  Therefore by dinner time they can afford to be picky.  If a child hasn’t fulfilled their energy and nutritional needs and chooses not to eat, their body will provide appropriate feedback.  You don’t have to.  You can continue to enjoy your meal and your family.

What about dessert?  Let your child eat it whether they have eaten or not.  Don’t get into a power struggle.  An appropriate portion of dessert is not a big deal.  Arguing, bribing, or negotiating with your child every night is the problem, not the dessert  If your child has already consumed the necessary nutrients and calories they need for the day, they are eating the dessert solely because it taste good, which is why everyone eats dessert.  If your child did not get enough calories and nutrients during the day, eating the dessert will not satisfy their body.  They will be hungry in short order; their body is providing the feedback, not you.  If they ask for snack, remind them that they chose not to eat dinner and that now they need to wait for snack.  Some children do very well when the dessert is offered during the dinner.  The child will eat their portion of dessert first so the tension is gone.  Now they can enjoy the meal. They will eat if they are still hungry.  You are smiling, relaxed, calm, and happy to be home with your family.

Moving on the Finger Foods

Babies usually let us know when they are ready for solids.  They keenly watch our every bite, lean towards our food, and point at it.  Most of us feel guilty for eating in front of them.  The mindful parent sees these cues, which are hard to ignore, and starts to feed their baby solids.  But how do you know when your baby is ready for finger foods and no longer needs purees and thick, liquid foods?  The signs are there, if you know where to look.

 Finger foods are foods that are solid, but soft or easily chewed, such as Cheerios, cooked beans, pieces of banana, skinned banana, canned peach or pear, steamed carrots, boneless salmon, shredded cheese, tofu, berries and slices of toast are but a few.  People foods are the foods you regularly feed your family, with the exception of choking foods such as (but not limited to) most raw vegetables, hard apples and fruit with the peel, hard small candies and nuts, whole hot dogs, and any thick goopy food like a dollop of peanut butter or cream cheese.

Keep in mind that physical development goes along with progression of foods, from purees to finger foods to people foods.  Be mindful and look for the signs of readiness.  Your baby started solids when they were able to push up on their arms with straight elbows while resting on their belly, had good head control and was a supported sitter.  When your child has progressed to being a very stable sitter, pulls up to stand, and can hold small objects between their thumb and first finger, they are usually ready for finger foods.  You will observe this, on average, between 8-10 months but age is not important. 

Don’t hold your child back by continuing with exclusively purred foods.  It’s more work for you and not the right work for them.  Your child needs to be able to explore developmentally appropriate foods just like they need developmentally appropriate play objects and environments.   Part of their work when they can pick up small objects is to pick up small objects.  Let your child learn to use their hands to get food into their mouths.  Let them learn that it is easier to pick up peas than applesauce.  Let them hold their own (open mouth) cup and learn to control the direction and flow of water.  Yes, this will be messy, but parents knows that practice makes perfect.  So you need to let them practice.

Beverly Pressey is a Registered Dietician with Master’s degrees in Education and Nutrition and specializes in working with care givers of babies and children.  Beverly has worked with individuals, presented at conferences, consulted with child care centers, taught continuing education and college classes, and presented at numerous parent groups.  As an experienced counselor, cook, teacher, speaker and a mother of 2, she has a realistic understanding of infant/child eating patterns plus the perspective of a busy parent.  Beverly lives in Seattle, Washington, find out more about her and her book at www.creatinghealthyeaters.com.

Packed Lunch for your Preschooler

Your child is ready to go to pre-school or kindergarten!  You have done all you can to prepare him or her for this experience.  Oh, but you will also need to pack a lunch.  If you find yourself dead in your tracks here are some ideas and suggestions.

First, keep in mind the rules you have established about meals: Don’t ask them what they want in their lunch.  Just pack what you would like them to eat.

Don’t expect the teacher to monitor your child’s eating.  It’s not fair to ask a teacher to make sure your child eats some of the sandwich before they eat their cookies.  If you don’t want your child to eat just cookies for lunch, don’t put them in the lunch.  Put in as many cookies, or chips, etc.  that would be ok for your child to eat.  Accept the fact that some days they will only eat certain foods.  But if they are hungry, they will eat more than just the fun food.

Only send foods that your child can eat independently without choking. 

One way to kill a child’s appetite is to give them juice or a caloric sports drink.  They will most likely drink this and then feel full.  Send water or milk if the milk can be kept cold.

Don’t get too hung up on sandwiches.  Some kids love them, some don’t.  Finger foods work well too.  Instead of a sandwich you can send some cheese slices or cubes, crackers, fruit and a cookie.  If your school allows it, send some nuts, raisins and cereal mix, add carrot sticks and chips.

Don’t forget about yogurt, send them with vanilla or plain and give them something to add, such as fruit, a teaspoon of sugar sprinkles, or honey.  Yogurt can be kept cold by freezing it before you put it in the lunch.  Food in squeezable packaging are also fun for kids.  Unfortunately the yogurts in tubes have a lot of sugar in them so consider them a dessert.  You may be able to find applesauce in a tube.   Kids also like to dip.  Think about sending pretzels or carrot sticks with a bean dip such as hummus or refried beans.  A cold cooked chicken drumstick can be dipped in ketchup or bar-b-que sauce.

Plain beans also make good finger foods.  Cold defrosted vegetables are also good finger foods.  Pack a small amount of frozen corn, peas, or edamame.  They will be defrosted and cool by lunch time.  Small previously baked potatoes are also good for dipping in ketchup.  Sliced apples tend to turn brown and then the kids don’t eat them.  You can sprinkle them with a little lemon juice to prevent browning or use other fruits.  Grapes, strawberries and blueberries are great choices.  Cut up other fruits, such as melon, peaches, nectarines or plums.  You can make a fruit salad or a fruit kebob.  Half a banana, still in the peel is also a good option as well as orange wedges.

 Kids always like noodles.  Many will eat a simple pasta salad consisting of cooked pasta, sliced olives and some shredded mozzarella cheese.  Anything on a toothpick is also fun.  You can put some cooked tortellini on a toothpick with cherry tomatoes or pieces of avocado.  Roll up some slices of turkey or chunks of cold cooked chicken and put them on a toothpick, with pieces of soft fruit such as peaches or nectarines.  Hard boiled eggs are fun for some kids.  Give them some dressing to dip it in.  Only send foods such as tuna, egg, salmon, or chicken salad with mayonnaise if the lunch will be refrigerated.

Overall, be creative.  Don’t worry about what is eaten or not.  Try to send at least one item that you know your child will eat.  It’s also OK is they have the same lunch every day; you can add variety at home meals and snacks.