Meal trouble with 3 year old...please tell me why I shouldn't... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 08-28-2010, 09:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi mamas...

I need some help..

Can someone please explain "why" it is wrong to tell children they need to eat X before they can have Y. I know essentially that it makes whatever food Y is to be the "forbidden" or "better tasting" food than whatever X is..I just need some more clarification.

I am struggling. I know I do NOT want to be doing that....I just need to get it stuck into my head some more or something. DH and I seem to be bribing our daughter to eat such and such first before she can have ice cream or a "treat" of some sort. I even have done it with telling her she needs to eat some cucumbers before she gets some pasta (which I know is not good to do but can't seem to realize it at the time).

I also seem to be having some struggles with my 3 year old and meal time. For one...she ALWAYS wants peanut butter sandwiches. Granted it's organic peanut butter on healthier bread..but I don't want her to be eating that all the time! She also loves loves loves carbs...and it makes me nervous for some reason...(not quite sure why?).

She loves breads, pastas, any baked goods, crackers, etc. (She is just like me in that respect..though I don't eat very much of that stuff around her at all).

We give her choices. For snacks, we've eliminated all processed snack foods from her diet. She can have apples, pears, mangos, pineapples, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. for snacks. She always chooses fruit. She loves fruit..can't get enough of's the vegetable part I worry about.

Now..she does love cooked broccoli and cauliflower and peas. She loves beats too. Is that enough? We try and sneak squash in things and she'll eat that..and sometimes she'll eat sweet potato fries if I make them...I just worry she's just not getting enough vegetables at all.

Also, she's kind of a grazer. She doesn't seem to like "big meals" so should I just eliminate big meals from her diet and let her have healthy foods all day long as much as she wants? She adores yogurt and cottage cheese, milk, organic lunch meats, etc.

I really need some help to make meal times more fun and less stressful!!

Tara, mama to Addison (4/07) and brokenheart.gif 03/20/10, brokenheart.gif05/27/10, and our newest addition and  rainbow1284.gifbabygirl.gif Emerson Rae (4/27/11) uc.jpg, married to John
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#2 of 17 Old 08-28-2010, 11:04 PM
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There are a lot of people on these boards that have written about bad food experiences growing up. I didn't and thus my opinion is a little different. My 3 year old will still take bites of X while playing if he didn't finish his vegetable (something he likes, well prepared), etc. Some people thing of this is an independence and it is, but, I care more about the terrific amount of veg he eats more. He'll grow out of accepting bites.

In addition, we do sometimes talk about we have X if we do Y. It isn't exactly tit for tat and it isn't a real, real bribe but we do have a general policy in place that we have a "special" snack if we have a "nice nap." (Cheddar bunnies or ovaltine or something).

Also, all my kids are real carnivores so if DS wants more meat or whatever then he was served we'll usually require that he finishes some other parts of his meal before a second helping. He will usually give some attention to the other grain/veg that we have and have more of the steak whatever. We only use this strategy if it is something that he likes or is likely to eat not known issues that he has a problem with but they we continue to serve (never likes cheese or certain vegetables). So, no, not entirely self-directed and yes, techinically not free will but we don't make it about YOU MUST EAT THIS FOOD OR but about the need for a balanced diet.

We will also, especially when DS was little, make veg the snack and hang out on the play mat with it.

Finally, we never lie about veg but we do sneak a lot into to other friends. We often have meats will say a grass fed lamburger crumbled into quinoa/cherry tomatoes/parsley/grilled zuccini with a little olive oil/lemon dressing or tofu with vegetables and brown rice and a little Japanese sauce. Olive oil, soy sauce, and Japanese dressing go far in our house and DD likes a little umph on his veg.
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#3 of 17 Old 08-29-2010, 12:35 AM
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We do it with DS (nearly 3) a little bit, b/c he'd eat only bread for dinner otherwise. I offer him a little bit of everything we're having and (unless it's something I know he really doesn't like, which isn't too many things) he has to eat all or most of what's on his plate before he gets more of something. He has a habit of asking for food and then not eating it, but I don't want to refuse him if he's hungry, so if he asks for something he needs to eat it before he gets anhything else.
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#4 of 17 Old 08-29-2010, 12:47 AM
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Dont worry sounds like she has a decent healty variety. Right now Jack survives off quinoa, broccoli peanutbutter applesauce/apples and peaches and bananas. he will also eat sweetpotato fries and ANY kind of junk food he can get his hands on ( which isnt much)

Smoothies are my friend Organic yogurt fruit and a little milk

I make pumpkin, applesauce vanilla yogurt ( with a dash of pumpkin pie spice) every so often

I add pumpkin to his pancakes ( in the mix) We also make healthy muffins.

Oh and the only meat he will eat is bacon

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#5 of 17 Old 08-29-2010, 01:01 AM
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our kids eat everything we grow

strawberries, my kids will stand there picking and stuffing their mouths wit hstrawberries

mesculin or other salad mix is easy to grow in a pot or on a ledge, and it grows quickly. and edible flowers, nasturtiums,e tc. only one of my kids doesn't love to eat flowers

they love salad, we'll add peaches or strawberries or blueberries, a splash of vinegar and some oil and pepper, honey and mustard are good too.

collards are easy to grow and easy to cook / eat. my dd has a recipe she makes all by herself with chard and garlic she grows

let em add peanut butter or anything they want. often if the help make it they eat it.

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#6 of 17 Old 08-29-2010, 01:41 AM
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I actually have been using the "must eat x to get y" rule for years and it works very well with my DS. When he was about 3yo I started the "you must eat all your veggie first" rule because he kept eating everything else and then being too *full*. We've always stuck with that rule and he automatically eats his veggies first every time. He does not have an adversion to vegetables, so I guess this is totally subjective to each child.

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#7 of 17 Old 08-29-2010, 02:35 AM
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We do it with DD. She isn't a picky eater - in fact, she's pretty good. I'm amazed that she'll eat spinach and bok choy! So it's not usually a case of forcing her to eat something she hates, just making sure she gets a bit of everything.

For instance, last night we had Brussels sprouts and carrots cooked in chicken stock, and a creamy pasta thing. Left to herself she'd have chosen the pasta and sprouts over the carrots, so I gently said "No, let's have this bit of carrot and then you can have some more pasta" a few times. She likes carrot OK, so it was fine. I don't think I scarred her for life.

I find DD really loves carbs, so I often have to persuade her to eat veggies, meat or whatever instead of just filling up on bread, pasta, chips or whatever. (Actually we're moderately low-carb at the moment, so it could just be the novelty when she gets them!)

She definitely loves to eat when I eat, and I've noticed she'll eat more if we're all eating calmly together. If I leave her at the table to do stuff in the kitchen while she finishes her lunch, she'll lose interest; if we're watching a movie while we eat, she'll eat less because she just wants to watch. Quiet companionship without too much talking seems to be the key.

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#8 of 17 Old 08-29-2010, 10:00 AM
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I honestly don't know. We do it. Yesterday I made bacon & eggs & fried potatoes. DS1 would happily eat nothing but bacon - he got a couple pieces then was told 'if you eat your egg you can have more bacon'. I honestly don't see why thats 'bad'. If there was no bacon he'd eat the egg. But if I just gave him all the bacon he wanted, thats all he'd eat. And I'm sorry, but I just don't think thats healthy. Its our job as parents to feed our kids healthy foods - and not just what they want. Thats why we don't have ice cream for breakfast and cake for dinner and pie for lunch, yk??
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#9 of 17 Old 08-29-2010, 12:38 PM
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Forgot to add, we always serve veg first so it is on the plate when they sit down. Meat or whatever comes later because it is "cooling."

DS weaned earlier than I wanted (22m) and I was really concerned about the goodies. He still eats a plain yobaby in the bath every night, sometimes two if dinner was a disaster.

Oh, and we also have a jar of six kinds of colored sugar sprinkles that I got at Target one time. That thing is a serious lifesaver for boring morning oatmeal or plain yogurt.
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#10 of 17 Old 08-29-2010, 12:42 PM
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I have no issues with it, especially if X is growing food for dinner and Y is something like a treat for desert. Maybe after 4 kids I'm doing it all wrong, but it seems to be working for us and they're nice, healthy kids.

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#11 of 17 Old 08-29-2010, 12:49 PM
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I don't know... we just let DS eat whatever we wants, but we make sure we only have things we want him to eat in the house. And we don't cook food outside of meal times. So in your case, if she wants to eat more pasta than you're comfortable with, then I would just limit the amount of pasta available for her to eat. So only cook X amount (or cook a larger amount & immediately store/freeze the rest) and let her eat it all and then when she's still hungry maybe she'll try a bite of green beans or whatever. Though honestly it sounds like she eats OK to me as it is.

We try very hard not to create power struggles over food, and I feel like "Finish X before you have Y" sets you up for those kind of struggles. I don't really care what order my DS eats his food but I share your concerns about too many carbs (or too much fruit) etc. so we just don't have a lot of carb-heavy foods constantly available. In fact, I've been on a gluten-free/corn-free diet for the last month so aside from some rice we don't have much in the way of carbs in the house at all, and DS doesn't really mind -- he just eats more of the fruits/veggies/nuts/etc. now. If we cook rice pasta as the main course, I might mix a pound of pasta with 3lbs of veggies (and put some aside for leftovers) so proportionately it's almost impossible for him to eat too much pasta.

Oh and I'd let her put PB on everything if she wants -- and maybe introduce her to other nut/seed butters for variety.

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#12 of 17 Old 08-29-2010, 12:52 PM
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I make it easy on myself. Because sometimes I just don't have time for a power struggle. Other times, I'm in a bad mood, and I welcome a power struggle. LOL

I make one meal. I put it on the plate, and if they don't eat it, that's fine. It's not my tummy. But, they aren't having something else later either. Unless they'd like their dinner reheated. I'm happy to do that.

I always put the dessert on the plate too. It gets eaten, so there's no reason to ask for another dessert, because clearly, she wasn't hungry enough to eat anything else on her plate, so she couldn't possibly still eat another dessert.

I don't expect everyone to like everything I make. But, I don't make substitute foods either. I have several foods at each meal, there's bound to be something they like. I have bread, meat, vegie and fruit at every meal. So, if someone goes to bed hungry, that was a bad choice, but it was theirs to make.

Our family is all grown up now, and everybody is a good eater, so I've never had a problem with anyone not eating at all. But, my daughter and I love cooked vegetables, but my husband hates them. I hate cauliflower and avocado, buy my daughter loves them. I try to be as fair as possible.
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#13 of 17 Old 08-29-2010, 03:10 PM
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My daughter is not yet two, but we are successfully negotiating bite by bite. I do not consider it bribing, I consider it negotiating a compromise, even if I'm the only one who thinks it through logically.

My daughter likes a variety of foods, but of course has her favorites.

But sometimes, she will only want one of the things on her plate and will ignore the rest. When she asks for more of the thing she likes, I tell her she can have another bite of what she likes when she takes a bite of "x", which she will do, and then I give her a bite. "X" usually ends up being some form of protein or a veggies she isn't sure about, I do not force her to eat something I know she doesn't like.

I can't negotiate entire items yet, because she doesn't get the concept (As in I can't say "You can have more noodles when you finish your chicken), but we can do it bite by bite.

I don't generally negotiate with sweet treats for after dinner, but she usually doesn't get something special for after dinner anyway.
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#14 of 17 Old 08-29-2010, 04:57 PM
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I wouldn't worry about it one bit - it sounds like she's eating a variety of healthful foods. There's nothing wrong with peanut butter on wholesome bread.
I just don't want to start "negotiating" every bite of food.
As far as I'm concerned, everything we give him - except for occasional treats like stopping for an ice cream cone or dim sum - is good food and it's up to him to decide what to eat or not. It's true that I usually won't give him additional portions of meat or pasta, for example, because I didn't cook more but I am always happy to give him more vegetables, a piece or fruit or some plain yogurt.

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#15 of 17 Old 08-30-2010, 02:37 AM
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We do occasionally use "eat another bite of X before you have another bite of Y"... sometimes, we say DD needs to take turns with her food. We try to watch and avoid saying anything if we notice that she just wants to eat all of her protein, say, then all of her carb, then snack on fruit or veg between one meal and the next, or any combination of this... Sort of a 24- to 48-hour monitoring approach. We also try to make sure we're not setting up only sweets or junk food as the "Y-food" and only less-preferred foods as the Xs...

I think some of the alarm is because the technique -can- become a control issue if it become detached from the reasons we need to model/encourage balanced eating and the big picture of toddler nutrition (that a decent diet can look really different from kid to kid).

We will say she does not get her dessert (fruit or ice cream or baked goods) until everyone is done eating. That does serve to make her eat more entree and side items, but it takes the negotiation away from being control over what she eats and turns it more into a manners/rules of the house point. If she wants to ask to be excused (if we're at the table) and play while we all finish, she gets to do that.

We don't get too many tantrums about this unless either of the grandmothers are there. Thankfully, the grandparents are all pretty good about her food intake, always giving her lots of fruit (got to work on the protein with MIL), and not undermining us. The anchoring of ice cream (my mom) and cookies/cakes (MIL), however, I will pin on them.
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#16 of 17 Old 08-30-2010, 03:10 AM
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just wanted to mention that carbs have gotten a bad rap with all the "low-carb" diets that are popular for adults. my ped. made that point that they need lots of carbs at this age with all the energy they burn up. ds loves any kind of crackers, bread, pasta, etc. too. i just make sure they're all whole grain & organic so i don't worry too much and just try to find a protein to put on 'em like hummus, peanut butter, cheese. sounds like your lo is getting plenty of fresh fruit & veggies so i wouldn't worry.
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#17 of 17 Old 08-30-2010, 03:59 AM
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Honestly, it sounds like your DD eats just fine. Similar to some previous posters, we only feed our DD food that we feel good about her eating. We also have set meal times and set snack times. I don't make special plates. Basically my philosophy is that it's my job to decide what food is made available to her and it's her job to decide what she's going to eat and how much of it. Certainly, if DD snarfs down her bread and then asks for more bread before touching her veggies or her meat, I won't give her any more bread. I simply tell her that if she's still hungry, she should eat what's on her plate. If she's still hungry after that, then I'll think about getting her more bread.

I have started to limit her fruit. She will always ask for it and I now tell her that she's already had plenty of fruit so far today, but her body hasn't had enough veggies or proteins. Then I'll offer to make her a snack of carrots and hummus or something like that. (You could do carrots and peanut butter, since your DD likes PB so much.) If that doesn't make her happy, well then, too bad. My DD has always gained weight just fine, so if she skips a snack every now and then, it's no big deal.

Lately, DD has been snubbing her veggies (she's usually very good about eating a little bit of everything, but I think she's going through a phase), so we do ask her to try a bite and then thank her for trying, even if she declares it "yucky". Then we eat ours and really talk them up -- how delicious the salad is, how wonderful it is that it came from our garden, how yummy the zucchini is, etc. I trust she'll come back around. In the meantime, I'm not giving her more of the other food groups to compensate. If she's that hungry, she'll eat her veggies.

We only do desserts once or twice a week, and usually it's on the weekends. DD loves her treats. I don't make them conditional; if we've agreed to have a treat that day, she gets a treat regardless of how she's eaten that day. I just don't want to use food as a reward.
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