Desperate for a Change in our Dinnertime/Eating! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 51 Old 12-09-2013, 05:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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AAAGH! I'm so at my wit's end with my two kids (5 and 3) and they're dinnertime behavior and eating.  They've never been easy to feed, never eaten large amounts of food, and never been accepting of the "one bite" rule.  So not only do I have two very selective eaters, I also have a five year old who still, despite us talking to her many times, does the "ooh gross I'm NOT Eating that!" rather than politely choosing something she does want to try. And my three year old is a challenge to even get to the table, let alone sit and actually eat. He ends up in tears, in his room, hollering while we try to maintain some normalcy at a family dinnertable. I'm so frustrated and detest dinnertime because of all this. It's not just the picky eating, but it's also the behavior they have that is beyond irritating and embarrassing. I get so nervous when family visits because I know they'll be judgmental (and they have good reason to be!) and I totally avoid mealtimes with friends which is pretty sad. We also have a 2 week vacation with family soon and I'm SO dreading feeding my children in front of them, RATHER than looking forward to a vacation with family. How messed up is that?!

 

I've read many books and we've tried the following without success:

family style

letting them help choose and prepare the meals

growing our own veggies

encouraging a one-bite trial

insisting upon a one-bite trial (how on earth can one make them actually try?)

excusing them from the table when they're disruptive, rude, etc. but all that does is let them get off without eating a thing

yelling

bribing (when desperate..i know, this is the worst and it only actually works on my oldest child anyway)

saving the plate and offering it (warmed up of course) later in the evening or at bedtime

 

Clearly, we're doing something wrong because this has gotten so bad. I cook simple things and try to create success by offering at least one thing they like, but it's gotten us into such a rut and so limited on their diet. If I can't force them to try a food, then how can they learn to accept it or like it? 

 

I know my kids aren't hearty eaters and that's okay. What I want is to be able to offer more variety and hopefully get them to actually try it, and I want some respect and politeness at the table. Tips, hints, criticisms welcome. I just need a changed approach! TIA!

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#2 of 51 Old 12-09-2013, 05:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I wanted to add that I've also tried the "don't talk about the food and don't respond to complaints etc." and it doesn't work either. If I ignore them and don't encourage them to eat SOMETHING then I know that there will be times they eat nothing at all! So...how does that work??

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#3 of 51 Old 12-09-2013, 06:12 PM
 
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What happens if they choose to eat nothing at one meal? Do they wake up in the middle of the night hungry?

Do they eat well (or better) at other meals? My 3.5yo eats the least at dinner time. Breakfast is her best meal.

We do what www.itsnotaboutnutrition.com suggests; if she doesn't want what is for dinner she can have plain yoghurt (the website uses cottAge cheese). It has lots of other good advice as well. I don't agree with everything she says (she's a bit too "govt guidelines" for me) but the principles seem good.

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#4 of 51 Old 12-09-2013, 06:40 PM
 
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I don't think bribing is that bad of an idea, but disclaimer I am a first time parent of a three yr old and learning as I go. My 3.5 year old is really picky right now too. . We say- the standard- you havr to have 6 pieces of broccoli and then you can have a frozen yogurt popsicle. Just in the past few weeks dh and I have ben trying to enforce it more- he still gets the sweet thing but at least he will eat the healthy thng s first. I thin parenting Is not a perfect art! Sure I would like him to sit and eat his brown rice and squash and kale but it ytakes a lot of coercing to get him to even eat a few bites of soup sometimes so for me it is worth it if he eats a small bowl of soup with a sweet reward at the end.

also, 3 and 5 are still very little. don't be too hard on yourself! To me and to you I say- just keep trying to offer healthy things first, with a reward at the end- and maybe some good foods will become normal.I find I get frustrated sometimes cooking things and him not eating them but I try not to get too upset and learn new methods as I go. good luck

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#5 of 51 Old 12-09-2013, 07:49 PM
 
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I respectfully disagree with food bribes for a couple of reasons.

1. It is sending a message that some food is so yucky (and even the grown-ups think it's yucky) that you need to be rewarded for eating it.

2. That in order to get the food they want they need to eat more than they want of another food. Thus potentially causing them to habitually overeat.

I would rather my kids ate a smaller variety of foods but that mealtime was a low-stress experience than forcing them to eat a wider variety. We continue to eat the foods we enjoy so they are still exposed to them. I really believe that they will eventually come to enjoy most of the foods we eat, once their palate matures, as long as we don't turn them off by creating power struggles and negative associations with food.

My disclaimer: I have a 3.5yo whose only vegetable at present is corn, and a 1yo who will eat just about anything (as they do at this age). So talk to me in 10 years time and I may be singing a different tune. I will say though that my parents took a very low-key approach to meals and my brother and I as adults eat and enjoy most foods.
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#6 of 51 Old 12-09-2013, 08:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Katelove- so your three year old only eats corn for a veggie? How do you handle offering other veggies? And do you implement the "you have to try at least one bite of everything" rule? It's not as easy as it sounds (or at least it's not with my two!). 

 

Also, one thing I keep reading is that we shouldn't only give dessert on nights when they've eaten well. Rather, they should be able to have dessert even after a "poor" dinner because otherwise we're reinforcing the idea the two points that you numbered above. Just wondering how you handle the sweets thing?

 

No, my two do not eat well at other meals. Breakfast is very little and all grains, lunch is always struggle with my 3 yr old and my 5 yr old in KG hardly eats any of her lunch at school (which also consists of the limited diet she's paired things down to). So, I get the whole thing about how doctors say they won't starve themselves, but my two just might! They are in the 10% of weight so it's not like they have a lot of extra. And yes, if they eat very little at dinner and we don't allow a bedtime snack, then they do wake up around 10/10:30 crying with hunger. I have friends who put their kids to bed hungry and they never wake from it, but certainly mine do. We often will allow a bedtime snack for just this reason.

 

Thanks for your input!

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#8 of 51 Old 12-09-2013, 08:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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#9 of 51 Old 12-09-2013, 08:28 PM
 
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Yep, only corn. She will also have potato in certain circumstances ie hot chips and just recently she has had the occasional bite of mashed potato. But I don't really count that.

We don't require "just one bite". We suggest and encourage it but have no interest in forcing it. And I don't know how we would anyway.

They way we do it is to put a bit of everything onto her plate. She can then choose what to eat and what to leave. We encourage her to try other things and occasionally she will touch them to her lips before declaring that she doesn't like it. DH and I both talk a lot about how it's ok not to like certain foods and that she will probably like them when she's older. We both have examples of food we disliked as a child but like now. She will often try something and say "I don't like it, but I will when I'm a big girl."

I guess one reason I don't worry is that she will eat most fruit. I don't love the extra sugar but at least she's getting the nutrients. If she didn't eat fruit and wasn't still breast feeding then we'd probably give her a multivitamin. Although I have read that it is macronutrients which are important for children rather than micronutrients. It makes me feel better to believe that lol.gif

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#10 of 51 Old 12-09-2013, 08:29 PM
 
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I have more to say but no time now. I'll be back.

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#11 of 51 Old 12-10-2013, 06:19 AM
 
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yes I had a whole reply discussing differnet approaches and different life experiences and family values that might make it so one family felt it was a bad message to offer a reward of sweets in exchange for eating the dinner whereas another might feel it was totally fine-- but then I found I would be getting too deep into a discussion/argument defending that and it made me feel tired so I deleted it! Bottom line- in my family and with my beliefs it feels okay to tell my ds- if you eat six mites of broccoli and 4 bites of soup you can have a popsicle-- that feels better to me than ds just saying no I won't eat it wah wah-- and me sitting there trying to be firm and possibly angry or whatnot. It feels easier to just offer a reward. But I was trying to explain that we all have different situations around food and mealtime expectations anyway/ For me I am a grazer so having three square meals and formal rules is tricky for me anyway-  and then when I am able to successfully make dinner and we all sit down and eat it and it has taken a certain am't of energy for me to get the food, cook it, time it serve it warm--- and then we all sit down at the table I am already like- whew, I made a good dinner tonight. Then if ds is like- no, I won't eat it- well I am already so tired out from the effort f making it sometimes that if I can get him to eat it with a reward that feels worth it to me.

For others, maybe regular cooking and mealtimes is easier, maybe they have a different structure built into their family with food. I have friends with little kids who are much better able than I am to make healthy meals and have their kids eat it- and it is more part of their daily routine.

I try to feed my family as healthy as I can but my three yr old is kinda picky right now and I guess I just cut myself some slack in it and know I am doing the best I can! I also try not to make it a huge drama around food-- so in that sense I try my best to get him to eat healthy. I think modeling it by eating healthy myself is a good method of course but I don't try to make it into a power things where I am like- youMUST eat your stew or you will get in trouble as to me that sets up a bad dynamic. I would rather have him associate eating healthy with getting a popsicle treat reward then eating healthy or else mom will be mad. Ideally he would just eat the healthy food on his own but then again he is only three and I think over time we will try to feed more and more healthy food.

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#12 of 51 Old 12-10-2013, 06:23 AM
 
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also, OP- reading your follow up post--- if your kids are in the low percentage with weight and you have food struggles I would say find more things they like that are even medium helahty but loaded with fat and nutrients- and try not to be too strict about when they are eating but allow them to eat if they are hungry!

Forexample, my ds usually has a bowl of oatmeal every night before bed. I see nothing wrong with that- kids have quick digestive systems and sometimes he will only pick at his dinner but then say he is hungry before bed so we have just gotten into the oatmeal before bed thing and it is fine with me.

Another thing, my ds has decent but not amazing reactions to dairy. He is okay with it but sometimes it makes him stuffy or I see some minor reactions from it. But he loves yougurt. So I choose to allow him to have yougurt- ad we will go through non dairy times too- so that even if h is not eating the perfect meals, at least he is getting the fat and protein content. I think full fats and enough fats are very important for kids-- and some ppl get so caught up in what they "shold
 be doing, that they forget to give the kids enough fat!

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#13 of 51 Old 12-10-2013, 11:29 AM
 
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I have two selective/small appetite/non-food motivated kids too, and we've tried various things over the years. The #1 thing that's helped us to have pleasant mealtimes with unstressed parents and decently-eating kids is to relax. Refuse to let food become a battle. My 4 year old dipped down in weight last year from her skinny usual to extra skinny, and we got into a bad habit of urging her to eat, which just seemed to encourage her NOT to eat. Once we stopped urging (which was tough at first!), she started eating more, and the time passed. She gets a multivitamin, fish oil (strawberry-flavored, we put it in yogurt), and iron supplement. I offer three meals and a snack every day that are things she generally likes, and she chooses whether or not to eat them. She is skinny, but energetic, smart and healthy.

 

It's hard not to worry. I found the Ellyn Satter method really simple and helpful. Sometimes I have to repeat it to myself when she's choosing not to eat a bite of her dinner: I choose what to offer. She chooses how much to eat. And that's that. I may encourage her to try something by asking "Hey, have you tried your _____ yet? I think it's pretty tasty!" but if she says no, or she doesn't want any, I don't push it. I've never found any way of enforcing a "no thank you bite" or whatever without threats or bribes or other stuff I don't want to do. And honestly, I just got tired of worrying about it and making all of our meals about "how much will the kid eat," so I decided to stop. And it has been a huge relief, and she's eating a lot better. Or maybe I just imagine she is because I'm not scrutinizing it anymore.

 

The other thing I've found really helpful over the years is to make lists with the kids of foods that they currently like. It's made lunch-making, breakfast options, etc much less of a hassle, and a bonus is that often when we sit down and make the list, we realize that there are actually more foods they'll eat than I thought.  It makes meal planning and shopping easier, too.

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#14 of 51 Old 12-10-2013, 02:38 PM
 
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My daughter was/is very picky about vegetables (but will eat fruit and berries until she throws up). What I found to help was making her choose four vegetables she would accept. We made kind of a game out of it. Bought one of almost every vegetable that exists to figure out which ones she is okay with eating, and the rest she doesn't have to eat. She chose broccoli, cauliflower, peas and raw carrots. She will also eat asparagus, because apparently it's the same as broccoli.

 

This was just vegetables in our case, but perhaps a method like that could be used for food in general. Find a few things they will accept eating, and agree on it together.

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#15 of 51 Old 12-10-2013, 03:42 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Snapdragon View Post

also, OP- reading your follow up post--- if your kids are in the low percentage with weight and you have food struggles I would say find more things they like that are even medium helahty but loaded with fat and nutrients- and try not to be too strict about when they are eating but allow them to eat if they are hungry!
Forexample, my ds usually has a bowl of oatmeal every night before bed. I see nothing wrong with that- kids have quick digestive systems and sometimes he will only pick at his dinner but then say he is hungry before bed so we have just gotten into the oatmeal before bed thing and it is fine with me.
Another thing, my ds has decent but not amazing reactions to dairy. He is okay with it but sometimes it makes him stuffy or I see some minor reactions from it. But he loves yougurt. So I choose to allow him to have yougurt- ad we will go through non dairy times too- so that even if h is not eating the perfect meals, at least he is getting the fat and protein content. I think full fats and enough fats are very important for kids-- and some ppl get so caught up in what they "shold

 be doing, that they forget to give the kids enough fat!

Totally agree that fat is very important for kids. We don't do anything "low fat" and I try to make sure they have plenty of good fats each day.

ETA - @Snapdragon, I'm sorry if I made you feel picked on, I didn't mean to. I guess I should add another disclaimer saying that neither of my children are underweight so my beliefs have been formed without that worry to consider.
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#16 of 51 Old 12-10-2013, 06:02 PM
 
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I also follow a Satter-esque method for my 3.5 year old, and it seems to work pretty well for us.  My daughter doesn't have a very big appetite, and was very slow to get into eating, but I'm happy with the small but varied array of foods she eats.  Two things I can offer:

 

1.  I prep her well for trying new foods.  I set her up with a napkin to spit in and a yummy drink/food to take a chaser bite with.  I tell her that if she needs to she can spit, and that if she doesn't like the taste she can chase it with something yummy and the bad taste will go away.  Since I taught her this, she' a lot more willing to try new foods.  It just felt too scary for her before.  Sometimes she doesn't like stuff, sometimes she says she likes it but doesn't go for another bite, but whatever.  At least she's open to trying now. 

 

2.  If we're going to have dessert or a treat, I serve it right along with her meal.  I don't like the idea of encouraging her to eat her dinner to fullness and then eat extra calories because she can't resist dessert.  And I don't like the idea of her shortchanging her healthy food because she can't wait to have her dessert.  So I give her dessert with the meal, and it is AMAZING to watch her intersperse bites of chocolate pudding with bites of green bean.  I swear, she is totally equal opportunity about the foods, and sometimes she doesn't even finish the dessert.  So weird. 

 

3.  Sometimes I put her on a gluten free diet (for other reasons) and it seems like the very first day she starts gobbling down vegetables like it's her job. 

 

Hope some of that helps. 

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#17 of 51 Old 12-11-2013, 10:40 AM
 
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I like the way you handle the trial bites, newmamalizzy. I've never really thought of giving her something she can spit it into if she doesn't like it, and giving her express permission to do so ... I think she might find it encouraging. Thanks!

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#18 of 51 Old 12-11-2013, 04:57 PM
 
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I've got grazers...  I think that's partially how they are and part how I've dealt with it. I know the studies on family dinner and do miss having that as part of our tradition but we find other ways to meet those needs. So, an option would be to just let up on the family dinner thing and revisit when the kids are older. There are worse things. :innocent


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#19 of 51 Old 12-11-2013, 05:06 PM
 
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I wanted to add that I agree that a after-dinner snack seems like a fine thing for kids who don't eat much dinner. I get that some people think that they will ever eat at dinner....but going to bed hungry would be a deal breaker for me as a mom, no matter what.  


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#20 of 51 Old 12-12-2013, 07:46 AM
 
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I have 4 children, all have been picky eater at various times but eventually seem to to outgrow it. Except one. I have one child who has severe eating issues, will starve himself, and does. His weight is dangerously low, we have very few foods that he will actually eat. We've even had to go as far as having to travel for intensive feeding therapy. Some successes there but we still seriously struggle with food and DS1. 

 

 

Things that make it worse for us is insisting on a one bite rule or engaging in any sort of power struggle around food. The one bite rule, for him, causes a further negative association with that food item. We try to do family style eating. In a busy family of 6 though, that isn't always possible. Since DS1 eats so little variety, there are always, always food items that he will not eat. The biggest one of our successes, and yes, our successes are minor these days, is doing a "Learning Plate". If we are doing family style dining or even if I serve up his food, the food that he does not want on his plate, goes onto a separate plate in the middle of the table, that is the learning plate. DS1's food aversions are such that he can not eat a preferred food if there is a non-preferred food item on his  plate. His mind is so filled with fear around those non-preferred foods. So I do not force him to get it near his mouth but he CAN interact with it by placing the food onto the Learning Plate. Somethings are small! Over time, sometimes, he does end up eventually eating that food from repeated exposure and zero pressure. 

 

 

Other tidbits, fewer choices and options are often better. We limit meals to about three items only per course meaning we start with that and and if nothing is making it past DS1's lips, then I serve up course 2 which can literally be crackers or something that I know he will probably eat. We always offer snacks before bed. Gong to bed hungry is not fun. We changed our vocab so that we don't say DS1 doesn't like anything, but that he is still learning about x food item. We also really try to limit a food item to every 3 days. It isn't always possibly with DS1 but for another kid, they love strawberries, instead of eating them every day, try every 3 days. Or because we have to offer the same foods every day with DS1 because he has so little food items, we occur it presented differently. Say strawberries in slices or whole or quarters. Kids are very visual and it helps to break it up some. I know we are in the extreme with our food issues but I think most of these things would of helped with my older girls when they were going through their picky phases as well. 


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#21 of 51 Old 12-12-2013, 04:23 PM
 
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Hi luckymama, that sounds like a really tough situation and I don't pretend to have the magic answer

I just wanted to add a small tidbit regarding your question about how to get them to try stuff at least once.

I have found that the best way for my kids to try something new is for them to have seen it a bunch of times (so it's not really 'new').

The first two, three, four times it shows up on the dinner table they may not touch it and that is OK.  I may encourage them that it is delicious but not push it.

Maybe the fifth or sixth time they might take a small bite.

After that it could become one of their favorites.  This has happened with several foods.  (Others have continued to be rejected and that is OK too.)  Something about having seen the food a bunch of times can put it in the 'familiar and therefore nonthreatening' category even if the child hasn't actually tried it before

 

good luck!

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#22 of 51 Old 12-17-2013, 08:49 PM
 
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I don't have time to read all of your responses, looks like there's a lot of good stuff there but wanted to say I know where you're at. DD has always been a tough eater -wouldn't even accept solids until 10 plus months (this is when the pediatrician said we should force it on her) and so began the battle of getting her to eat.  I know the anxiety that comes with begging and pleading and bribing your kids to eat at each meal, and it's a bad place to be.  Luckily, your kids are old enough now to say when they are hungry, and I've learned that they WILL do this -eventually.  I found that when I stopped ALL of the charades around the dinner table, that it got a lot easier, and she started to eat more.  Food can easily become a battle of wills and a power struggle, and that's the wrong message to send.  Have you ever read "how to get your kid to eat, but not too much" ?  That's a good one.

 

What we do now is dinner is made each night with a main, a veg, a fruit and protein that I know they like (1/2 pb sandwich, scrambled eggs, handful of cashews, sliced ham, chicken, whatever) we all sit down to eat (ya right) and if she wants to crawl on the floor, run down the hall, ignore the food completely, that's her choice.  But eventually, when she gets hungry -and they will, that's what they are going to be offered. I don't have rules about how much they eat or that they try EACH thing, it just has to be a reasonable effort.  And as long as I get my timing right -several hours before bedtime -this allows time for her to come around, and at the very least eats one portion of good protein, and try a bite or two of something new.  I've also given up on expecting her to sit through an entire meal.  It never happens -I'm sure it will eventually. I would imagine that when she's 20 and on a date with some guy in a romantic restaurant that she wont need to run laps around the dinner table in between bites, but for now -just one thing at a time. I assure you,  that as soon as you back off a little, they'll surprise you. good luck!

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#23 of 51 Old 12-18-2013, 03:21 PM
 
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For me, it was (and still is) very important to respect my children and their tastes, just as it is important they respect mine.  And I'm a very big believer in "do what you want your kids to do" sort of parenting.  Further, even at a young age I think kids develop food likes and dislikes, just like I do.  Sometimes these are based on actual taste or texture, and sometimes just the look or smell of something is enough for me to say "no thank you".  So, since I don't force myself to eat something I dislike, I won't force them either.  I also wanted them to develop eating habits based on their need for food (their hunger cues), rather than on my potential-wrong belief in what they should be eating.  I was raised in a very strict "you will eat this" household and I never, ever want to get into those situations with my children.  In my childhood the way you "enforced" the x # of bites rule, or the "eat what you are given rule" violates just about everything Mothering stands for, including beating, confining at the table, force feeding etc.  So my need/desire for a very different model for my kids was pretty intense.

 

Anyway, here's what worked for us.  First, have faith in your children and their bodies.  And realize that skipping meals and/or not having a "balanced" meal isn't going to hurt them.  Forcing them to try something might have a bigger negative impact than a month of weird meals.  Once my kids were out of the highchair, here is how we managed family breakfast and dinner.  Now they are 10 and 14, so the issues are changing, but these are still the guidelines for dinner.  1.  They must come to the table to say grace.  2.  They don't have to eat anything, or anything they don't want.  I do plan meals around general family likes and dislikes.  3.  If they are hungry but don't want what I have prepared they are free to get themselves something else from the kitchen and return to the table to eat with the family.  From the time they were 3 they could make a simple sandwich or find the cheese and crackers or yogurt or fruit bowl.  4.  Once I have served dinner, I am eating my meal while it is hot and engage in pleasant conversation.  I am NOT going to fix anything else for anyone.

 

I pack lunches for them and they either eat what I pack or buy something else.  I pay for lunches if they tell me they want to buy rather than have a packed lunch, but once I've packed something, anything else is on them.  If they complain about what I am packing, then they can pack their own lunch for a while. :-)

 

They are free to snack on whatever they want whenever they want.  I don't buy anything I don't want them to eat, though I do try to buy stuff they want (or at least healthier options).  Now that they are old enough that they are coming home from school on their own, they can buy "junk" snacks if they want, but it's their money.

 

We do a lot of farmers market shopping and teaching the kids to cook.  We do a lot of food education.  And we watch a lot of the food network!  I think that helps their sense of adventurous eating.

 

Basically, I took all the possible stress out of mealtimes and food in general.  And I'm happy, my kids generally eat just about anything. Warning -- "eat anything" can result in some very expensive restaurant tabs!  We do have some weight challenges (in both directions), but they are side-effects of medications and we'd have them anyway.  We all take a multivitamin because my son has food restrictions for medical reasons so there are nutrients that I know we don't get enough of.

 

You know how they say dogs pick up on fear and stress?  I think kids do too, and it just makes mealtimes into a "downward death spiral".  My personal decision was that nothing was worth getting there.

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#24 of 51 Old 12-19-2013, 12:02 PM
 
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I wanted to add that my way isn't really working! I had offered that when for a short while ds was eating more foods he otherwise did not in exchange for dessert.

But the realty now is I just plain let him eat too much sweets and just plain do not enforce he eat some of the healthier food. Same with letting him drink too much juice and not enough water. so right now he has this (very mild light pink- to others it looks like rosy cheek but to me I can se it has a bumpy texture) 'rash' on his cheeks I am thinking is diet related. And I feel mom guilt. It is weird because as parents there is so much to learn as we go.  In figuring out all the other aspects of parenting I have been too lenient with  sweets and so forth and allowing ds to be picky/.

I just don't know how to enforce him to eat healthier.

 

I think cooking every day and then having it be good and having my 3 yr old eat it feels sometimes overwhelming as a job to me!I try my best but I realize now I need to just get less sweets. I cook pretty healthy foods but we will sit down for dinner and ds will just ot eat it. And in the moment dh and I don't know how to get him to! So we let him not do it and then feed him something less healthy later.

So really I am with the OP in asking how do I get my almost 4 yr old to eat healthier?

Some friends say- just feed them what you want and if they are hungry they will eat it. I just give in too fast maybe? What are some more tips?

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#25 of 51 Old 12-19-2013, 02:50 PM
 
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I wanted to add that my way isn't really working! I had offered that when for a short while ds was eating more foods he otherwise did not in exchange for dessert.

But the realty now is I just plain let him eat too much sweets and just plain do not enforce he eat some of the healthier food. Same with letting him drink too much juice and not enough water. so right now he has this (very mild light pink- to others it looks like rosy cheek but to me I can se it has a bumpy texture) 'rash' on his cheeks I am thinking is diet related. And I feel mom guilt. It is weird because as parents there is so much to learn as we go.  In figuring out all the other aspects of parenting I have been too lenient with  sweets and so forth and allowing ds to be picky/.

I just don't know how to enforce him to eat healthier.

 

I think cooking every day and then having it be good and having my 3 yr old eat it feels sometimes overwhelming as a job to me!I try my best but I realize now I need to just get less sweets. I cook pretty healthy foods but we will sit down for dinner and ds will just ot eat it. And in the moment dh and I don't know how to get him to! So we let him not do it and then feed him something less healthy later.

So really I am with the OP in asking how do I get my almost 4 yr old to eat healthier?

Some friends say- just feed them what you want and if they are hungry they will eat it. I just give in too fast maybe? What are some more tips?


You'll have to ask yourself: what is my ultimate goal in feeding my kids?

 

For me it was the following:

- meals to be a pleasant experience for the whole family

- kids to be willing to join us at the table, to eat with pleasure and gusto and to have good dinner table manners

- kids to be adventurous with food and enjoy eating

- kids to be in tune with their bodies, to recognize when they are hungry and when to stop.

 

What and how much to eat is not even on my list. I've read somewhere that if the eating experience is not pleasant, nutrition suffers.

I'll be back later, have to go :)


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#26 of 51 Old 12-21-2013, 12:01 PM
 
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nightwish   I would be interested to hear more. What you suggested all sounds good to me n=but I want to know HOW to make that happen???

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#27 of 51 Old 12-21-2013, 05:15 PM
 
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Consider having family meals (if you don't already have them). Work out a routine that works for your family.

 

I found that, for us, having three meals and two snacks a day works well. My dk have their breakfast at daycare, then a snack in the morning at school, then lunch, another snack around 4 at daycare and I serve dinner around 6.

 

Plan meals in advance, pair foods that your dk likes with foods that he likes less, or are new to him. Once you place them on the table, help him serve himself and eat as much or as little as he wants.

Let him have as much juice as he wants during mealtime, and then offer just water between meals.

Personally, I give my kids one box of juice a day in their lunch boxes and offer milk or water with meals at home, mostly because I don't like juice myself.

But I would recommend that you don't make drastic changes in your dk's menu at once, because it won't last. Just have the same food you are cooking and serving now, but at mealtimes or sit-down snacks.

One very very important thing - turn all electronics off and sit down with them and enjoy your meal. Don't pressure, bargain, withdraw dessert if he doesn't eat X amount of food that you consider essential. Some days (maybe at the beginning, especially if your meals were a battleground until now), your dk won't eat anything, or will eat only a bowl of plain pasta. But he'll come around eventually.

About desserts: if you do desserts (some families I know simply don't enjoy desserts), offer one portion only, not conditioned on what and how much your child eats.

 

I have to admit it was very hard to implement this in my own family. I had my own hangups and fears surrounding food. It was hard to keep my wits about me when my ds wouldn't touch meat or my dd wouldn't eat a salad. But after they started trusting me that I won't pressure them in any way to eat certain amounts of certain foods, they started becoming more adventurous with food and they would try just about anything now, at their own request.

My dd loves cooked vegetables and is slowly warming up to salads. Ds hasn't been eating chicken in months, tonight he just surprised me and ate a whole chicken leg. And the funny part is I hadn't even noticed until the end of the meal - he helped himself.

 

This is the website that helped me tremendously: http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/htf/joytofeed.php

 

HTH

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#28 of 51 Old 12-21-2013, 05:38 PM
 
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thank you! I haven't clicked on the website yet but that is excellent advice.

Tonight I made dinner just after I had read your last post. I consciously made a calm setting ,set the table nice, lit candles. But it happened that dh was home and somewhat relaxed from not working today and could fully entertain ds while I took the time to cook. Anyway- sometimes it is chaotic and making a nice space is a challenge (partially our living situation which is changing son but that is another story)

 

Anywya-- ds ate one of the three things I had and then we really wanted him (dh and I talking privately) to try the ckicken soup with rice thing I had made- but were unsure how to go aobut it.

Anyway we did get him to try a bite after resistance and then he liked it and ate maybe 8 bites.

Which was progress. And I served just water at dinner and he drank it.

Then he was hungry later and had his usual oatmeal= and oatmeal is fine with me.

I also have to just get less sweets, get less stressed about feeding him., and be more firm I think. I don't know- I am just going to keep trying!

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#29 of 51 Old 12-21-2013, 08:01 PM
 
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I have raised several kids with major eating issues - foster and bio-kids, autism, sensory issues, picky eaters, anorexia, trauma history including serious neglect in the realm of food, aversions of all sorts, extreme overeating and food-hoarding - you name it. Also some pretty horrible table manners, no idea how to act in a restaurant, etc. I have been pretty low-key about is all. The following is the general approach that worked with everyone (I had up to 6 kids in my home at a time, and would have gone nuts with different meals/plans for each!) It took me some time to let go of my notions about nutrition and "clean your plate" attitudes. Rather than balanced meals, I aimed for balanced months - and I did give them gummi vitamins. I think this was more for my guilt than their nutrition!:D

 

There was ALWAYS a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter. Anyone was welcome to all they wanted, any time, no need to ask. Same with a basket of granola bars. There were often other snack choices - carrots and ranch, popcorn, cheese and crackers, hard-boiled eggs. Again, these were free-range.

 

For dinner, I cooked fairly healthy but not too strange meals. Homemade macaroni and cheese, maybe with ham and/or broccoli in it, or spaghetti with meat/tomato sauce. Asian style stir fry with rice. Hearty soups and stews. Things like that, lots of one-dish meals, sometimes added a salad. Everybody was welcome to either eat what I cooked, or fix themselves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or eat fruit and granola bars. Or not - it was OK to just hang out at the table.

 

Breakfast was at school on weekdays, but on weekends or holidays, I would make oatmeal or biscuits, and have out a variety of condiments/toppings, and everyone served themselves. Butter, maple syrup, fresh or dried fruit or berries, cheese, nuts, whatever came to mind. The kids loved "inventing" their own recipes.

 

Dinnertime was at least as much a social event as a nutritional one. Pleasant conversation, planning for tomorrow, games, jokes, and silliness. It was often the only time we all sat down together, and everyone wanted to be there. We didn't have the competition of TV or electronics, and everyone seemed more than happy to interrupt whatever else they were doing to join. If someone had chosen to continue playing instead (I always gave a 10 minute warning before I served), I would have just looked quizzically, maybe asked, "Really?" and let them choose. But I don't remember that ever happening.

 

I never bought food I didn't want to have them eat. If I bought or made popsicles or cookies  for example, it would be for an occasion, expected to be finished in an afternoon. Or I occasionally baked a pie, or bought ice cream. But I never kept much sweets in the house. Same with chips and foods like that - maybe for a picnic, but I didn't normally have them around.

 

Eventually, even the pickiest eaters got a bit more adventurous. The kids who had experienced severe hunger came to trust that food would always be plentiful. My boy with serious sensory issues now, at 17, eats everything except mashed potatoes (or food of that consistency and texture) - his favorite treat is sushi. This is the kid I swear lived on nothing but popcorn for 3 or 4 years!

 

I agree with those above who suggest relaxing about the eating altogether. It really will sort itself out. I love the picture of the 20 year old running lapps around the table with her date at the romantic restaurant. I will chuckle about that all night!

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#30 of 51 Old 12-22-2013, 05:53 AM
 
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thank you! I haven't clicked on the website yet but that is excellent advice.

Tonight I made dinner just after I had read your last post. I consciously made a calm setting ,set the table nice, lit candles. But it happened that dh was home and somewhat relaxed from not working today and could fully entertain ds while I took the time to cook. Anyway- sometimes it is chaotic and making a nice space is a challenge (partially our living situation which is changing son but that is another story)

 

Anywya-- ds ate one of the three things I had and then we really wanted him (dh and I talking privately) to try the ckicken soup with rice thing I had made- but were unsure how to go aobut it.

Anyway we did get him to try a bite after resistance and then he liked it and ate maybe 8 bites.

Which was progress. And I served just water at dinner and he drank it.

Then he was hungry later and had his usual oatmeal= and oatmeal is fine with me.

I also have to just get less sweets, get less stressed about feeding him., and be more firm I think. I don't know- I am just going to keep trying!


Snapdragon, that's not what I meant. If anything, I would be less firm, not more with your ds's eating.

I would give him control over what and how much to eat. The way I see it, my job as a parent is feeding, deciding what foods to offer and maintaining a stable routine (when and where to feed them); my dk's job is eating (deciding what - of what I am offering - and how much to eat). When I interfere with their job of eating, with any pressure whatsoever, their eating habits get worse.

I've been there, negociating the number of bites, and it didn't feel right at all. I asked myself: is this what I want my children to learn, that they shouldn't trust their bodies, of what and how much they need? That some foods are "good" and others are "bad"? That they should eat stuff they don't want just because it's "good for them"? (As an aside note, have you noticed how the list of "good foods" and "bad foods" changed over the years? A while ago, everything had do be low fat. Sugar was anathema. Carbs were the worst. Now apparently fat is "in". And aspartame and artificial sweeteners cause ADHD.)

With forcing/bribing/negociating you get maybe a small victory. You get the kid to try the food you wanted him to try. But I think in the long run, you lose more. He is still not eager to try new food, to come to the table joyfully, and will stick with the food that's safe for him (like oatmeal).

 

GL in your journey. I know it was a tough and humbling one for me. As a parent, I expected to control things like how my kids sleep and what they eat. Then I discovered they have their own minds. You can force or bribe them to sleep or eat in a certain way, but you can't make them :)


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