Thursday, September 15, 2011

How I Get My Toddler to Eat

Firstly let me state that I do not claim to be an expert. I never have! BUT I am learning a ton. I've just learned with Braden (every toddler is different) that he just goes through phases of eating almost nothing, to eating almost everything. I have to try as I might to remember this when he's in a non-eating phase so that I don't wrack my brain trying to figure out what on God's green earth is wrong with my child! I am also pretty convinced that they are in a state of teething from the time they are about 4 months old until they pop that last baby tooth, which we are seemingly far from.[I also realize that Murphy's Law will probably reinstate after this post is published and none of my tips and tricks will work for Braden anymore. Sigh. Oh well, risk I'm willing to take for the blogging world!]
 Picnik collage
[Eating snacks with cousin Trinity]

Here are some things that work for us:
  • Hide those veggies
    • Braden really does love his veggies when he's in his good eating phase, but when he's not eating much I am now hiding his veggies, especially in pasta. ZUCCHINI is great. Shred it up really fine and you can't even see it in pasta/casseroles or taste it either. It's great for baking with too and in the fall there's always zucchinis a plenty around here for free as it's often forced upon graciously given to me from friends and my wonderful MIL! :) [It's either take it and say thank you or take the chance that the "zucchini fairy" might leave a pile of zucchini on the passenger seat of your car! It's happened people, it's happened!]
    • Speaking of zucchini, I grated it all up and froze it it 1 cup portions to add to future dishes - voila!
    • Dairyland has this awesome new yogurt out called "My Fruit & Veggie"! A great way to get a dose of veggies in, in a food product he never turns away. It has that wonderful DHA that's supposed to make children geniuses develop health brain function and it has two flavors: peaches & butternut squash and banana & sweet potato. Sounds kinda gross...but he loves it and therefore so do I.
    • Braden will rarely turn down a smoothie, so I've also (unbeknown to him) thrown spinach leaves in and he still drinks it all up.
  • Cut out empty-calorie snacks
    • You know the ones I'm talking about. The good stuff! Crackers, cookies, dry cereal! The things all of our kids would eat day after day, meal after meal...
    • When Braden's not eating well, and actually as a general new rule in our house now, we don't allow crackers as snacks or to graze on anymore [as not per the picture above!]. He fills up on crackers and then has no motivation to eat a relatively healthy full meal. So now he only gets crackers in the afternoon if he has had a good breaky/lunch or if we're out and about cuz let's face it, that's the easiest go to snack for on-the-go snacking! [just call me the Cracker Nazi! - k, that could sound really bad, but you know what I mean in Mom terms!]
  • Just ask nicely
    • Again, every child is different, but Braden really responds well (especially now that he's getting older)
    • "Braden, please have one bite for Mommy?" 
    • "Almost done, Braden, please finish your nummies! 
  • Make it fun, give lots of praise
    • Braden has always responded really well when we make a big stinkin' deal over any of his accomplishments, so when he's eating well I'll clap and smile and tell him what a good job he did eating all his nummies
    • Reward with a small dessert - especially this time of year there is always dessert around, so even though he doesn't fully understand I'll say "Yay! Since Braden at all of his nummies he can have a cookie! Yay!"
    • This will inevitably lead to the old "you can't have any dessert until you finish your supper" that I've heard all my family/friends say to their children! :)
  • Realize/know that you cannot force feed your toddler
    • I've had to remind myself of this many times. I've never tried to "force feed" Braden, it's impossible...but when the eatin's bad...there's really not a heck of a lot I can do to make him eat, so I try to remember not to let it "get" to me.  
  • A little distraction is okay...sometimes
    • I definitely do not want to get in the habit of having Braden zoned out watching TV Thomas so we can sneak in his meals. This will become very unreliable very fast, I can already tell. BUT when he's in a non-eating phase...if he's zoned out watching Diggers or Thomas...sorry, I'm shoveling in the food as long as he'll let me...I just know for me I can't, nor do I want to, do this forever
    • Playing a fun little game like "Braden, will you share with Mommy?" and going in for a bite of his food, often encourages him to eat more to play keep-away. Again - not something I want to do long-term, but for those last few bites of a meal, it works wonders
Well, that's all I got. Please leave comments and share your tricks for getting your toddler/child to eat healthier or eat more of their meals! :)
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  1. Love the Dairyland Lil Ones. They are great!

  2. Also, an FYI for your readers that I will post because the Speech Pathologist I work with would not be impressed if I didn't: cups with straws are MUCH better for proper oral development of the child, than SIPPY cups!

    Also, soothers (that they use other than just at bedtime, or have in their mouths all night long) or bottles in bed. All these things affect development of teeth and mouth function.

    For instance, if a child has had a soother in it's mouth for a great part of the day and night as a toddler... often times the tongue will develop a forward thrust, and the child maylhave a distinct lisp. Not so cute in later years! They may even walk around with their mouths slightly open, and their tongue kind of just sitting there, instead of tucked inside their mouths.

    I'm not explaining this with the technical terms, because I don't ever remember them all, but I've worked in a classroom for 15 years with a SLP, and have learned a lot during that time, and Sarah often has questions for me to ask her.

    Another good tip for fussy eaters, is to make the plate, and food you're serving as appealing visually as possible! Put very little on the plate, so as not to overwhelm them. The stages of accepting a new food, are: touch it, lick it, put it in the mouth, chew it, swallow it... so offer the same new food (a new veggie, etc) every day... and see if you can get a little further towards acceptance each time. If you get to the point where they chew it and swallow it, but don't like it... you should respect that and leave that alone for a period of time, and re-offer it at a later time. We don't eat foods we hate.

    The biggest key to a poor eater, is do NOT give them juice to drink. A child can fill up and go a long time on the calories taken in drinking juice! Sadly, there is way too much sugar in juice (even though it may be natural to be considered healthy). Who's going to eat broccoli if you can drink nice sugary juice??!


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