What’s On Your Plate?
By Alicia Chalk, LLBSW, Care Coordinator Great Start Collaborative/Help Me Grow
As I think about what to feed my 15 month old daughter 3 times a day every day that she’ll be sure to eat, I look to Pinterest, YouTube and most importantly the MyPlate website for recommendations on healthy food options. It’s my goal to get her off to a great start with the foods she eats by packing every meal with protein, grains, fruit, veggies, dairy and some non dairy alternatives. Then some days I realize for us, it’s just not happening. She’s quick to shut her mouth and keep it sealed as she pushes all food away. On those days, we fall back to old faithful - oatmeal with fruit and a side of milk even at dinner.
Children at every stage in their food journey have joys and challenges. Let’s work with our children to make what we put on their plates tasty, engaging and stress free while creating a culture of healthy eating. Here are some tips on how to deal with picky eaters, how to enjoy mealtime as a family and how to set your child or children up for food success.
Get the entire family involved - Ask, “Can you be my kitchen helper today?” Plan meals and a grocery list together. Normally, you could plan a “field trip” to the grocery store, but due to Covid-19 you may not feel comfortable taking your child to the store. Instead be creative and pull the store site up online or use the ads that come in the mail to search for foods to buy. When you get home, have them put the groceries away and for those with babies and toddlers, name each item as you put it away. Your kitchen helper can help cook by stirring, pouring and tasting. Yum!
Introduce new foods with familiar foods and start off small - You don’t want to shock your child’s senses by overloading them with new textures, new tastes and new smells. Be patient, let them explore and ask for more if they like it. Babies and toddlers sometimes need to try foods up to 10 times before they determine that they like it or they may not and that’s okay.
Reframe from some of the old sayings - “You can leave the table after one more bite.” “No dessert until you eat all your vegetables.” These phrases can imply the wrong message such as to ignore your fullness and keep eating, that some foods are better than others because they’re turned into rewards. Instead try: “Did I hear your tummy say it’s still hungry or has it had enough?" “We’ll save these veggies for later and maybe cook them another way.” This teaches children to look at their food in a more positive way and allows them to make choices and trust their judgment.
For babies and toddlers - Watch and learn their cues. They will tell you when they’re hungry or full. They will tell you when they want to try feeding themselves or when they want you to help them. Let them know they’re supported, that they can trust themselves to know they can do things for themselves or when they need help that you are there..
Create a routine - try to eat your meals at around the same time every day.
Lastly, enjoy mealtimes together and be their role model - There is nothing better than sitting with the people that you love while enjoying food. Turn the tv off and have conversations. Allow your child or children to share with you. They may want to discuss how their day went, they may want to babble while you pretend to know exactly what they’re saying. Plus they’ll see you enjoying the same food you’re asking them to eat. However you choose to spend your mealtime, know that time together is always best! You got this!
Bonus Tip: To save, make sure to check out savings using the store app for coupons, frozen and cans are appropriate substitutes for fresh, see if you qualify for WIC or MI food assistance program & use right away.
For more suggestions, tips and recipes check out: https://www.myplate.gov/; https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/352-healthy-from-the-start; https://www.eatright.org/