This post really could be about a lot of different things. It’s a mix of tips on feeding a toddler/young child as well as tips for developing better eating habits as adults. Plus, I’m quite partial to the little girl in the post. 😉
Most would assume as a dietitian that I am really strict with feeding my 20 month old. That is true and not true at the same time. Emmalynn has tried at least 120 different foods. (I know because my goal was to have her try 100 foods before she turned one and we made it to around 110!!) I’d say 90% of those foods are whole and mostly nutritious foods. I make sure she has a balanced diet, but let me tell you a something. She LOVES cookies. That’s mama’s girl for sure! Grandma’s girl too! Is cookie love possibly genetic?…
There are certain things we do not let her have like pop, juice, most chips and candies. Other than that though, she eats a little of everything depending on the day. So today I want you to see a recent dinner time experience and show you what we can all learn from it.
Here’s the set up. This is Emmy’s plate for dinner. She eats 99% of the same meal we are. Sometimes it’s a deconstructed version or a slight derivative. She has ate the same as us pretty much from the start. Notice I serve her a cookie WITH her dinner. Also notice the little bit of BBQ sauce (dip dips). Also notice just a few bites of many different things. This night we were having baked BBQ pork toastadas with salad.
- serve your kids as much as possible the foods you eat from an early age. The more exposure they have to regular foods instead of “kid” foods the more likely they are to eat them and like them. Don’t get me wrong though. Mac n cheese and chicken nuggets are consumed from time to time with this chick too.
- The cookie is served with dinner. Yes, WITH dinner. It seems crazy, but I am super excited for you to continue reading and see what happens!
- Dip Dips=LIFE. Seriously, adding a tiny bit of sauce for dipping makes a kid way more interested in food!
- Emmalynn doesn’t love or even like every food I serve on her plate, but I do not care how many times she has spit a food out or said “no.” I always try again. Kids sometimes need to be exposed to a food 8-10 times before they like it!
Dinner time. Can you guess what she said first? Can you guess what she picked up first? If you answered cookie to both, then you are correct! Cookie is probably one her favorite words too. I think most would think, “well duh. She ruined her appetite on it too.” It is actually quite the opposite. She took a nibble out of her cookie and then ate a bite of cheese!! I will say, she never let go of the cookie though. This has been true every time I have done this too. Notice she’s still holding it while we prayed, and also the look I’m getting for taking a picture while daddy prayed… oops. She tried a bite of mushroom next and spit it out, and then an onion and liked it. Next was a bite of a yellow bell pepper. It’s her new favorite veggie to munch on. Partially because they are yellow and that is currently her favorite color to say and point out. After 10 minutes of eating, the cookie was gone and she continued to eat the rest of her food.
The rest of dinner involved me bringing over more veggies that she munched on and then my plate. She even decided to try the lettuce on my plate. Toward the end of dinner it was mostly moving the foods around playing with them, and counting the yellow bell peppers. At the end she ended up with the last bit of one of my toastadas. She pulled the meat off and at the corn tortilla chip. I try not to feed her bites much, but if she is really distracted or if I think she didn’t try something I usually try to get her to take a bite. Tonight I dipped her pork in “dip dips” and she ate that one bite and told me “no” to another bite. She could be a vegetarian I’m sure. So I didn’t push it. She soon said “I done.” That was the end of dinner, and this is what was left on her plate.
- Always remain neutral with foods. I never tell Emmy that there’s a cookie on her plate or act really excited about it. I serve it like I serve all her foods and let her find it and eat it if and when she wants. When we label foods as “good” and “bad” it creates strong feelings towards them. See my recent post “Why You Should Eat Your Favorite Foods.”
- Serve a mix of new or not favorite foods with favorite foods. I knew the mushrooms were probably a no because it’s always hit or miss with those. The raw red onion was really iffy. The pork really just depends, but I know she loves cheese, cookies, avocado, tomatoes, and usually yellow bell peppers.
- Help your child LISTEN to THEIR bodies by letting them choose how much they eat. It’s really hard, but only each individual can truly know when we are hungry and full. We learn to override that feeling and overeat from a very early age.
- Be flexible with dinner. Enjoy the family time and don’t let it be a fight. Sometimes it’s really messy and there’s more playing than eating, but that’s okay. You don’t have to eat everything on your plate. Notice the bites she left. I hate waste. So anything that is salvageable is saved for a meal later in the week.
Brief Lessons us adults can learn from how toddlers eat.
- A veggie can be just as good a cookie. It’s all a matter of variety and realizing you can have all foods at any point. There is no need to eat it like it’s your last chance (most of the time 😉 )
- It is OKAY to leave food on your plate. I know most didn’t grow up this way, but I promise it is. If you are satisfied, stop eating. If you have food left, save it for later.
- Cookies or whatever food you love totally can be in your diet.
- Take your time eating and enjoy the conversation.
Let me know how you like learning about toddler eating tips, or if you have questions about your eating habits. I’d love to talk.
Special thanks to my daughter for making this post possible and to my husband for never being annoyed at me for taking random pictures of my food at the dinner table. You’re the real MVP!
PS- It’s National Chocolate Chip Day. Am I celebrating with chocolate chip cookies? Yes I am. Here’s the recipe I am celebrating with.