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Snack or starve - what do you do when your kids won't eat dinner? - Page 2

post #21 of 54
Originally Posted by rumi View Post

isn't it obvious that it is most nutritious (and yummy) when fresh?  

not that we always eat fresh either, but we know it has lost something over time.


There are actually a lot of soups and stews that improve with a little age (like, 1-3 days), and are tastier on reheating then they were in the first place.  And I know that some vitamin content is lost when you cook vegetables, regardless of cooking method.  But if, say, we make a big batch of chicken tikka masala on Sunday, and sling some into the microwave on Wednesday, I don't think there's a nutritional difference between that serving, and the serving eaten straight from the cooking pot on Sunday, and I don't think there would be a nutritional difference between putting that serving into a pot on the stove and putting that serving into a bowl in the microwave.


I tend to be pretty minimal on cooking vegetables, and some of those do suffer a lot from reheating (limp broccoli, yeuch), but I'll hand that over cold.

post #22 of 54
Originally Posted by MeepyCat View Post


It's not??  I'm super curious about this.



Here is just a quick reference about food nutrition loss from cooking off the internet:



Not my favorite source but it conveys the point: the more heat a food is subjected to the more nutrients it tends to lose.  That site is not very reliable tho... One exception is a nutrient found in tomatoes and a few others.    So, yeah the fresher and more local the food the better.

Edited by demeter888 - 7/3/13 at 7:08pm
post #23 of 54
Originally Posted by MeepyCat View Post

This one is news to me too. Seriously, where's this coming from? We do most of our cooking on weekends, and pack it up to microwave on week nights so that we can feed the kids after work, but before they melt down.


I was going to say the link below explains why microwaving isn't great, but then I actually ready the article. LOL  The last time I read about any of this was  few years ago.




Either way, I still microwave veggies often because I am too busy to prepare them on the stove. That and we just eat raw when possible. If it weren't for nukers we'd have far fewer veggies on the table.

post #24 of 54

In our home, we have decided that eating is simply not a big deal. I think this all started with nursing my children on demand. Whenever they were hungry, even if it felt off to me (too much, too little), I obliged! When they started eating solids, it just made sense to us to keep that same attitude. I think the real question should be why is your snack food not considered worthy of a meal?


Most of the time, we eat very healthy foods and we give our son a lot of opportunities to express his wants and preferences. For example, breakfast here is generally one of 4 options: oatmeal, eggs in various forms, fruit and yogourt parfaits, or a smoothie. Sometimes we have organic cereal but we don't often have milk in the fridge, so that is very limited as well. Every morning my 3 yr old choses what he wants to eat and the quantity he eats varies greatly. Some days, he'll have 2 eggs and 2 toasts (no kidding!). Others, he won't even finish 1 egg and leaves his toast. We think of it as encouraging him to be in tune with his body, and to eat as much or as little as he feels he needs. If I  think he hasn't eaten quite enough and I have the time, I offer him an all-fruit smoothie to take to daycare with him. He never turns down a smoothie LOL!


It's the same for dinner really. Some days I'll make a full sit-down dinner (like shepherd's pie with salad), some days we all snack for dinner (a plate of strawberries, cucumbers, cheese, boiled eggs, hummus, etc) when the kids are playing outside and no one wants to go in or stop to eat. 


If he doesn't want to eat what we're eating, we respect that and always try to encourage him to have a taste. He never wants to at first but often comes around and has a bite, which he doesn't like. We praise him for trying and move on. 


If he doesn't want to eat when we're eating, we allow him to eat later in the evening when he is hungry. At that point, we offer any of the fresh, whole food we have in the house - never junk food, rarely processed food like crackers or bread. Most of the time, he wants a piece of fruit, which I will never refuse, and try to give him a few nuts to eat along side it to regulate his blood sugar before bedtime. Besides, don't experts claim that eating smaller meals consisting of fresh, whole foods more frequently during the day is the healthiest was to eat? 


I've struggled my whole life with food and food-related issues, and frankly, one of my biggest pet peeves is how much importance our society places on food. Food as a celebration, food as a reward, food as comfort, food as an activity... the list goes on and on! The dinner table doesn't have to be the end all, be all of family life! 


Point is, I wouldn't worry about it. Just make sure you only offer fresh, whole foods and it will not matter when or how your child eats it!

post #25 of 54
Originally Posted by Pinkbruise View Post

My rule is "you may have this, or you may make yourself a sandwich or an apple". Even for my 3 yo.

They have to try 1 bite before they declare they don't like it and won't eat it. My 7 yo usually then discovers that it is delicious and asks for seconds.

If they still won't eat I give them water and off to bed with the promise of a big breakfast.

They will eat it they are hungry. My boys area little overweight so I don't worry one bit about them getting some they like to eat or not.


I do this, exactly. The reason I give for having to try a bite is that their tongues are growing and one day they will like foods that they didn't before. My daughter who is 9 was super, super selective about what she would and wouldn't eat for a while, but this strategy got her through it and she even takes some pride in being brave enough to try new foods.

post #26 of 54
One of my kids has sensory issues that include food issues, and my other kid has some food sensitivities that have caused her to be a picky eater. When they were 4ish, we always had simple things on hand, like yogurt and fruit, that they could have instead of dinner.

Parts of my parenting are based on doing the opposite of my patents. They had major control issues with food, and my sister and I both have issues with food. So I just decided to keep all the options in our house healthy and not get worked up over what they eat. I later added the caveat that I will not be a short order cook!
post #27 of 54

I'm a green smoothie fanatic so that is the only alternative for me, H, and most likely LO when/if she starts being a fussy eater. We have a good blender so it takes like 2 minutes. It has veggies (whatever leafy green on hand), fruit, and protein (milk and maybe PB). Pretty balanced in my book and not a huge issue to make if dinner doesn't turn out/isn't palatable to someone. 

post #28 of 54

We used to reward our 5 year old with a small dessert if he ate a good dinner, but this turned into a power struggle.  We started to have a "How many more bites do I need to eat" negotiation, which drove us nuts.  So we discontinued all treats, except on Friday.  If he claims he is not hungry at dinner, we don't force him to eat, but we don't prepare him anything different (as long as it was something we expect him to enjoy).  We save the dinner until he wants it.  If we make something he doesn't like (if it's accidentally too spicy or something) we have peanut butter and jelly for him, which he always likes.  No power struggle.  Your child won't go hungry by his/her own will.  They figure it out soon enough.

post #29 of 54

As a parent, it's my job to see that healthy food is served/available at reasonable times.  This includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner served about 4-5 hours apart.  Depending on age, morning and afternoon snacks are available midway between meals and consist of fruit, whole grains, and/or dairy.  Water is available at all times.  Milk is served for breakfast unless we are having a spicy meal for dinner.  Juice is a rare occasion.  My children's job was to eat what and how much of what I served.  If they insist that they are truly hungry, fruit is offered.  If they turn down fruit in favor of junk food, I figure that they really aren't hunger but just need something that they are interpreting to be hunger.  My attention, a suggestion of what to do next, etc.  If nothing I suggest is accepted, then they are allowed to deal with the problem themselves.

post #30 of 54

It might help, or not (each case is different), but this is what we do:


We do allow fresh fruit and veggies ANYtime, even 5min. before dinner, even if it "spoils" their appetites.  How do you spoil an appetite with healthy food?  I consider it equivalent to the "salad" that some adults eat at the beginning of dinner.  Fill up on the healthy, have less room for the sugary/salty/starchy --  it is a great deal!  If they get hungry 5min. after dinner -- guess what snacks might just be available?


We rely on the power of hunger, and the kids' desire to be self-sufficient.  Baby carrots and "broccoli feet" (the stems) taste delicious when a kid (or myself) is hungry.  I leave acceptable snacks in the fridge or on the kitchen table, such as veggies, nuts, cheese sticks, or sliced fruit, and the kids love to wander in and help themselves.  Note, this became easier after I cleared out the fridge crap -- the chocolate yogurt, the leftover cake, the chocolate milk, the lemonade.  Now, unless they want to dig into the squash casserole, baked beans, or the raw onions, they have to pick snacks I leave for them.  But they have choices.  And they know that, if they don't finish what they started, they need to put it back in the fridge so it doesn't spoil.  


(Side note -- I loathed being in the kitchen around the clock, serving kids and cleaning up after their crumble-making butts.  I used to spend my WHOLE day there, either prepping, feeding or cleaning up, then the cycle would start all over again for the next meal.  I do want them to be nourished, but I have no desire to be their waiter for 12 hours out of 24, especially when they didn't get hungry simultaneously.  Snack-wise, they got self-sufficient when the oldest was three or four, and got strong enough to pull the fridge door open.  Now, we have time for counting games and reading books, and if it's not a designated meal time, they take care of their snacking by themselves, then come back to play or read.)


Additionally, when I cook something "iffy", I involve them in the cooking process.  Not to say that they clear their plates as a result (I wouldn't want them to feel like they have to anyway), but it increases the chances of them taking a bite from that squash casserole or the baked chicken-and-salsa.  If nothing else, we do the guess-the-spice game (for example, they can smell rosemary when it is fresh, but can they recognize the scent on the baked potatoes?)


I guess I want them to be fed, and be adventurous about food.  When they turn their noses up at some new dish, I encourage them to at least SMELL it.  A kids' nose is finer than that of an adult, anyway.  Because much of our appetite is aided by the sense of smell, I consider the sniff test to be the first step, instead of the obligation to take a bite. (As an adult, if something smells repulsive to me, why the hell would I want to take "just one bite, one single bite, dearie?"  Conversely, if it looks ugly but smells like heaven, like some casseroles do, I might be tempted into tasting it.)


HTH.  As they say, your mileage may vary.  Good luck to you!

post #31 of 54
We eat a grain-free, organic, whole foods diet, so whatever I have in the house is okay for LO to eat. He's on the spectrum and we previously restricted dairy, but now he eats local, raw milk cheese, drinks grassfed, raw milk, and enjoys an almost daily serving of local grassfed yogurt. Sometimes, he will only drink a glass of milk or have yogurt with salt and pepper for dinner, and ask for meat or veg later. His small, growing body is obviously on a different hunger-energy burning cycle than our bodies. He sometimes eats six good sized meals in a day, and other times I am "lucky" to get two snacks in him.

I try to remove the struggle and my own childhood conditioning about food, let him eat when he's hungry, and allow him a pass when he isn't. I allow him Larabars (or the homemade equivalent) only when he needs quick energy when we are out of the house. That cuts down the requests for snacks in place of actual meals. He will only eat chicken in the form of legs on the bone, or cooked in small pieces. He likes burger patties, broccoli, and tomato salad as a favorite meal, so I find I default to that for lunch about three times a week. Paleo pancakes and chickpea pancakes are fun and nutritious for him, and easy enough to prepare that I don't usually mind putting them on the side of whatever meal I make. I readily admit to sneaking extra vegetables into sauce and soup when he's in a picky stage, and I also help my cause by adding coconut oil, grassfed butter, or veg to mashed potatoes or a smoothie when he is just being stubborn about not eating, yet I can hear his stomach growling (he has some disorder-related control issues). We live in north Florida so we have access to fresh local produce all year. I think my feeding plan might be a little different if we move somewhere else.
post #32 of 54

My younger daughter did this for awhile. She would sit down to dinner and seem, all of a sudden, to not have an appetite only to ask for a "snack" afterwards. What we discovered, through some processing with her, is that she was overwhelmed by a full plate of food in front of her. Once we started serving her much smaller portions, or even one thing at a time, she ate much better and now she only occasionally asks for some yogurt before bed, which I'm ok with.

post #33 of 54
I was kinda bendy on this issue for littles. But once they were physically capable of making their own PB and J or getting their own bowl of cereal, I figured the "one meal for all" was best for us and my sanity. Like most kids, they would have eaten a constant stream of plain chicken with a side of carrots. I and my hubby, need a little variety. And strangely, most of the time they ate what I served, they were simply to lazy to make their own dinner and would try what I had prepared.
post #34 of 54

At 4, it is totally normal for kids to "graze".  We have a 3.5yo and a 2.5yo right now ourselves, so we are deep in the grazing valley!  To cut down on waste and my own frustration, I serve them small portions-- sometimes they have seconds, thirds, and fourths, and sometimes they barely touch what's on the plate to start with.  In the latter case, I leave their food out until we start cleaning up for bedtime, and they almost always return to the table and eat more, albeit slowly over the course of the evening.  In my experience, lots of kids-- even most-- settle down and start eating bigger meals at more regular times at age 5-7, as long as that's the eating pattern modeled by the other people in the household.


It's also totally normal for little kids to reject offered things (dinner, bath, etc.) as a way to experiment with their growing independence.  When my smalls reject dinner, I offer a set of cold food alternatives: yogurt and granola, cheese, bread, nuts, fruit, pickles (beet, cucumber, or carrot).  That way I don't expend extra effort on their meals, because I've already made dinner.  They usually accept one of the options, and often when they've finished their alternative food they eat their dinner-- which is what tells me it's an independence thing, because it's not that they don't want dinner, it's that they want to be in control.


I also don't worry about striving deliberately for balanced eating.  I figure that, in the presence of good choices and the absence of bad examples, children will eat what their bodies tell them to eat-- which, for kids under 5, often means lots of dairy, fats, proteins, and starches (they are growing really quickly, after all, and their brains are still developing), but also lots of fresh fruit and pickled veggies.  If there's something I really want them to try, the best way to achieve that is to serve it only for myself and make no comment to them about it; they quickly ask for a taste, and then usually some for themselves.

post #35 of 54

my 6 yr old is like that all day long.  I ask him if he's done eating & remind him that this is meal time & his last chance to eat for the night or till the next meal.  He often wants to eat later, depending on how much he ate sometime I tell him no & he'll have to wait for the next meal or morning or I let him have something that needs minimal prep like a bowl of cereal, an apple or carrots.  It doesn't always work but it's a constant struggle for me & I have to pick & choose my battles & minimize my load at the same time.  I know for my son if he doesn't eat enough he will not fall asleep an I don't want that either.

post #36 of 54

mamazee, what time is dinner?


Do you think she really isn't hungry right then?  Maybe move dinner later by 30 minutes or so.  


If you think she is skirting dinner entirely, no matter the time, and it is driving you crazy, then set aside some dinner to serve when she is hungry.  


If you still want the family mealtime, insist that she sits with the family, even if she isn't hungry.  No big deal, but let's talk about our day!  Have her pick some flowers from the garden to place on the table, pretty the table up.  Use the wine glasses to drink fizzy apple juice from.  Sing a thank you song, make a toast, light some candles, make a wish when you blow them out.  Have some stock questions that always get asked as a way to get the conversation going.  Make sure dinner is about light conversation, not lectures.


It seems like making a snack instead of dinner, or making different things with dinner bothers everyone but me.  I don't feel like it's a big deal.

post #37 of 54
To me it sounds like "not hungry" means "I don't want what you served," if she's asking for a snack right after you clear up. Snacks are so much easier to like!

We went through something like this around age 2 with DD1. We were firm about meal times, and would let her know multiple times that dinner was her last chance to eat...when mommy and daddy are done eating, it's too late for the kid to start eating. I only offered milk if she refused dinner and threw a fit later. Reheated (or cold, whatever) dinner might actually work fine for you, but we eat late, bed is usually just minutes later so our DD didn't have a long hungry evening. Whatever it is, it should be extremely low effort and not too interesting. Talking about the rule should be matter-of-fact and not too terribly interesting either.

Anyway, this was our DD's major phase of limit testing in general, and I think she just needed to "check" that we really would stick to the mealtime rule.

Ellyn Satter does have great tips, she is my guru. For instance, serve at least one easy-to-like food, then as best you can, try not to care about how much or -whether- she eats, as long as it's at a designated meal time. So simple but it takes serious parental discipline to just serve good food and "lay off." According to Satter kids eat better in the long run when they sense that their parents aren't eyeballing their plate. I'm still working on it, I need to stop nagging them to eat enough of their chicken, but they are rarely picky so something must be going right.

TLDR version - give boring leftovers or a drink, not a nice "snacky yummy" food and remind them to eat with the family next time.
post #38 of 54

There are so many variables with food, meal time, preferences, and snacks vs meals.  I agree, simply making somethings a Rule, instead of arguing or negotiating it,  is more effective. That worked particularly well with homework and the after school routine: the rule is no tv on school nights.  No more of, Mom reminds the kids over and over to turn the tv off and do homework.  It's simply the house rule.  I know, this might be obvious to some but it wasn't to me.  Anyway, I think this can be effective for some aspects of the dinner meal.  Parent-participation preschool clearly demonstrated this, as well.  My kids, at least, responded well to the routine and the rules. It took me a while to realize I could apply the same routine and impersonal rules at home, and it was nothing like being a dog trainer. 


I agree that kids preferences should be accommodated to some extent.  My mom served eggplant often but the stuff made me gag.  Finally she decided I wasn't just being a pill for the hell of it, and let me skip the egg plant.  But I also agree no one should have to be a short order cook.  Ugh.  No thank you, I don't have time for that. 


A girlfriend of mine had a rule, 'the kitchen is closed after 7pm (or 8pm or whatever)."  No making messes after the kitchen is cleaned up.  And her dh would share fruit with them every single night before bed if they wanted it. 



Originally Posted by demeter888 View Post
Either way, I still microwave veggies often because I am too busy to prepare them on the stove. That and we just eat raw when possible. If it weren't for nukers we'd have far fewer veggies on the table.



Exactly.  That's what I figured about 'ranch' dressing as well: if it gets them to eat veggies that they wouldn't eat otherwise, then so be it.  But fortunately my kids just don't like the stuff and are fine with plain cooked veggies with salt, pepper and butter. Frequently cooked in the microwave because that's all I've got time for. 

post #39 of 54

I think it's ok for a kid to decide not to eat what we are eating for dinner, but I'm also not going to make them whatever they want whenever they want it, or I'd spend all day making various snacks that they decide they don't want 5 minutes later.

So this is the best idea I have heard so far - if they refuse dinner, have one specific, fairly healthy snack that they can get themselves. If you don't want dinner or are hungry later on, get a yogurt. Yogurt is healthy and my daughter usually likes it, but its not like a cookie or a special treat either. So whenever she doesn't want dinner, that's fine (no one is allowed to tell me what I do or not want to eat, so I allow her that same autonomy), then get yourself a yogurt. I don't have to prepare anything extra or do any more chores, and she is making her own decision and feeding herself. 

post #40 of 54

weather has an affect on dd's eating habits.


on super hot days we eat many small meals - light and cool. 


you are talking about your 11 year old right.


i just have dd make dinner. she does anyways most of the time. 

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