In our house, we do not just have a picky eater. We have a four-year old son who has 4,863,628 things he would rather do than sit down and eat a meal. I should clarify that this has been a challenge for us since day one. We brought our bundle of sweet sleeping joy home from the hospital and all he wanted to do was sleep. He never woke up screaming for food. My husband or myself would have to wake him up to feed him. As an infant, our son hated touching food. The kid wouldn’t touch puffs or yogurt melts. We even had a 3-month period where he reverted from purees back to formula. Eventually we got him back on solid foods, but his diet has always been pretty limited, and it hasn’t always been nutritious. Add in typical preschool behavior of refusing favorite foods just to be difficult, and the atmosphere around food at our house was a real treat. As parents, my husband and I reached a point that we didn’t necessarily care what our son ate just as long as he was eating something. In our minds, food = fuel, and our kid needed energy.
In recent months, our strategy proved to be parent fail. Food affects moods. Moods affect everyone. Our four-year old’s mood was pretty lousy. We were either fighting him to eat, or struggling with him later because he didn’t eat anything. In short, our son’s diet of Mott’s Fruit Snacks, grilled cheese, Pirate Booty, and a few grapes, was taking a toll on all of us. After researching and trying many different methods, tactics, and strategies, my husband and I finally decided to reach out to a nutritionist for help. We are so glad that we did. Below are a few key takeaways from our meetings, which are helping us with learning and teaching healthy eating habits to our preschooler.
• Focus on high protein and high (good) fat foods. Lots of Omega 3’s are the goal.
• Keep sugar between 12-15 grams total per day. Let’s go ahead and agree this is easier said than done, but it cane be done!
• 4-6 protein forward mini-meals through the day.
• If you are going to offer fruit or food that is processed as sugar (such as crackers with carbs), you can balance that food with another food that contains good fats. Try offering a cheese stick with crackers. Or a cheese stick with grapes.
• Stay away from sugars and foods with lots of dyes. We cleaned out all fruit snacks, go-gurts, Nutrigrain bars, etc… Yes, the kid equivalent of your chocolate and wine stash.
• Just because a food isn’t a regular breakfast food, does not mean it cannot be eaten for breakfast. If your child will eat beans and rice for breakfast, serve it! It is about getting sustaining foods in their system to keep them from riding the hypoglycemic rollercoaster through the day, and dragging you with them.
• If using a cooking spray to prepare a food, replace it with Kerry Gold butter, coconut oil or olive oil. Again, any way to work in those healthy fats.
• No more cow’s milk at our house. Try almond milk instead. Maybe a 4 ounce serving at most, after a meal. Do not allow your child to fill up on milk at the table. It keeps them from eating their meals (our son was a master of this tactic).
• You can allow small amounts of sugars/sweeteners with things like honey, real maple syrup, and dark chocolate. I add a few dark chocolate covered raisins to trail mix (literally like four of them), or dark chocolate almond milk as a treat.
• A good way to add meat into meals like sauces and soups is to process them as fine as you can. We ordered a Ninja, and it has helped with adding red meat and chicken into meals.
• Smoothies are always good too! Just watch the fruit ratio.
Since making these changes and adding some supplements, we have noticed a shift in our son’s behavior. He is more even-keeled throughout the day and is eating more sustaining foods he likes. While a lot of his diet is the same from day-to-day, he doesn’t seem to mind. Consistency is key here. We still have some rough days, but they are starting to be outnumbered by better days.
Please note all little bodies and metabolisms are different. I am NOT a health expert. I wanted to share one of the biggest struggles we have faced in our home, in the event one of you can relate. Truth be told, this whole eating ordeal can be quite isolating. Especially when you see another child happily shoving fistfuls of edamame in their mouth like its Godiva Chocolate, and you are battling your kid to eat a banana. If you do have questions about your child’s behavior and diet, you should absolutely reference a pediatrician or nutritionist before making changes. Good luck and happy eating!