As moms, we all know raising a healthy eater requires effort. But, it’s not the effort that’s the issue. It’s the consistency piece that gets us into trouble. Being consistent means no matter where we are or what else is going on, we MUST be consistent about how we enforce our feeding and eating strategies. Dinnertime is definitely one of the most common times for mishaps with consistency. Our kids are tired. We’re tired. Plus, everyone is hungry. It’s a recipe for disaster without a consistent strategy! On this particular night, my son was a mess and consistency almost went out the window…It was 5 o’clock and time to make dinner. I was making Decadent Dairy-free Mac-N-Cheese so I only needed about 20 minutes prep time. Regardless, prep time requires a little focus so I usually drag my son’s blocks into the kitchen, put on a Sesame Street episode or let him help on a stool. Much to my dismay, nothing was working today. Evren was hanging on my legs, crying, and declining any of my fun offers. Sound like a rerun of dinner prep at your house too?
After nearly knocking me to the ground with the leg clinging, he began begging for snacks. Screaming at the top of his tiny, loud-ass lungs “Daaaattttessss. Daaaattttessss.” The kid is only 22 months so when he’s actually specifying food items, it’s clear he’s hungry. Since Evren rarely gets this upset about hunger I became ridiculously frantic about getting food into him. For a few minutes, I forgot about my training and client experience in the Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding. I plopped a scoop of the dairy-free mac-n-cheese sauce atop of leftover quinoa and delivered it to the monster. Phew, I was saved, right? Wrong. Evren wailed “nooooooo” at the top of those loud-ass lungs again and tossed his spoon. On a normal day, this kid could gobble down green mac-n-cheese before it even reached the table. His refusal stopped me in my tracks to assess, what had I done wrong?
Always include something healthy that he never refuses in the meal too.
In my rapid-fire response, I neglected to provide other options he LOVES on the plate. When his tantrums started, I was still chopping his familiar dinner ingredients, grape tomatoes and leftover hard-boiled eggs, so they didn’t make it in my first attempt at dinner. If you’re trying to raise a healthy eater, always “strategically” include 1-2 foods in the meal that your kiddo will eat. Dairy-free mac-n-cheese wasn’t new for Evren, but it had been awhile since we ate it so having other familiar foods on the plate was especially important.
Eat meals as a family.
My hungry little monster got the best of me and I sat him down to eat without me. Family meals are more important than we realize. Our young children not only see that the food we are serving is safe, but they also pick up on the modeling we do as healthy, competent eaters. Evren may have eaten the dairy-free mac-n-cheese at the get go if I had been eating with him, but I wasn’t modeling what I wanted to be done.
Thankfully, I snapped into action and recovered from my mistakes quickly by providing a complete meal with all options and sitting down to eat with Evren. No sooner was he gobbling down the green mac-n-cheese that mommy was also eating. Crisis diverted.
Raising a competent eater takes consistency and diligence, but it’s worth it for both the health of my growing son and our family life (aka my sanity). If you haven’t been regularly practicing the Division of Responsibility Feeding and Eating Model, please know there are other important guidelines that make it successful. Plus, it’s going to take time to see results. That’s why I’m here, to support families like you in this process!