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 feed our children. 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!
Even parents trained in reversing picky eating (hint: me) can misstep without a consistent strategy.
Take this story as an example:
It was 5 o’clock and time to make dinner. I was making homemade green mac-n-cheese which required only 20 minutes of prep time. Unfortunately on this night, my toddler had no interest in any of his toys or with helping me in the kitchen. Instead he just hung onto my legs and cried incessantly. Sound like a rerun of dinner prep at your house too? I knew he was hungry but hot damn this was a new experience for me. As best as I could, I quickly finished making dinner and served him a scoop of his FAVORITE homemade, green mac-n-cheese atop leftover quinoa and sat down to breathe. Phew, I was saved, right? Wrong. Evren wailed “nooooooo” at the top of his lungs and tossed his spoon.
Oh no! What did I do wrong?? The issue was I had forgotten about my training and experience in the Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding and served the meal without doing two key steps to create a positive mealtime experience for my everyone in the family (including Evren, my toddler).
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 watch what 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.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 over!
Raising a competent eater takes consistency and diligence, but it’s worth it for both the health of my growing son(s) 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!