"They either eat you out of house and home or seem to live on air. I make health meals and they leave it on the plate, I don't get it! " This is a common observation from most households at one time or another I have found. It's frustrating and annoying , wasteful of food etc , etc.
What we don't get is that our children are our teachers as such as we are theirs. And we come from generations that were told about either starving children in Africa and told to eat everything. Or no snacks as you will ruin your dinner, clean your plate if you want dessert. Yet we mums especially, are also the generation that has been on a diet for the longest continual time.
These two things are no coincidental I feel and we need to break our cycle to help our kids and our sanity for a mentally and physically healthier future. Snacks for us have been made a guilty thing. Bad for you , unhealthy. We need to lose our insecurities over food and be more like our kids , one thing we can learn from our children is to watch them eat.
Since birth we have fretted about calorie / milk/food intake of our wee ones, are they getting enough , is my milk enough , when should I start solids, they aren't really eating enough .... We have all been there! But I'm here to assure you and instruct you to listen to your child. And feed them till they want you to stop, not the other way around. If they are gaining the weight and growing out and then up let them be. Trust their tummies
I did Baby Lead Weaning and I found that it helped in seeing when my wee woman was done as she ate till she was full. Not when I thought she was full. Some days she would eat like a horse ( not sure where that saying came from... ) and others like a bird ( again , I think peaking at food analogy)? I had to trust in her that she would get what she needed. And I have always through my career and now as a mum maintained that no child ever starves when good food is available . So I had to remember my Jedi training and relax.
Which brings me to now, she's three? And vocal and active and alway hungry but at the prescribed wrong times. I again have to rethink my past norm and let her take the lead. Kids eat when they are hungry and no amount of cajoling will get them to eat if they are not. But yet when they are and its around a meal time say half hour before , we deny them food in the hopes they eat our meals.
We need to rethink our boundaries and move the goal posts. Children especially active and bouncy toddlers and preschoolers burn through energy and calories like wild fire and we need to keep them filled up so their blood sugar doesn't get low and they brain has optimal changes of process all the information they are learning.
I believe in the graze system as such , smaller regular opportunities of food. Smaller portions , more through out the day. There is already a prescribed set plan that used to be in play but we in the later part of the 20th centre let it go. Breakfast, morning tea, lunch , afternoon tea, dinner, supper. I really think they were on to something .
So I do this with my daughter, I have 'snacks' out for her around 10-11 am and 3-4 pm. I don't fret at what she doesn't eat at breakfast , lunch and dinner. I give her smaller portions and she can either eat everything and ask for more or leave what she doesn't want. She can be finished but she has to wait for others to finish theirs before getting down. I want her part of family conversations and teach her semblance of manners. By taking the pressure off yourself and them to eat , the battle isn't there. If they see you eating your veggies they might too. If they are just living on potatoes ( my daughter at the moment) it's a phase and her decisions and taste buds will mature with time. Think how many foods you hated as a kid and love as an adult... for me, avocado !
By having a heathy attitude to foods you can ensure they will too. I have to trust her. I don't want food times to be a battle of wills. Or use food as a bribe, I will never tell her to eat up to get dessert. Or finish this or just one more bite , etc. Even her fruit course before bed as we are doing stories is important as she had burned off 'dinner' playing in the hours between. I was finding she was hungry and I needed to listen to her. Not see it as a delaying tactic for bedtimes. She sleeps soundly through the night, proof enough for me.
The snacks I offer , are healthy options, cut fruit , yogurt tube, crackers and cheese, a cup of juice ( its water with juice wafted by ) This is supplied if we are out, ( great options of fruit roll ups and muesli bars and dried fruit etc, but all of the above are bad for little teeth so make sure to offer lots to drink or brush ? ) I put the days options out on her table and she can nibble at what she needs when she needs it. When she's older I will have a shelf or basket with choices she can choose from without me through the day.
I find this helps they m to regulate their own intake , they don't whinge and whine at you , and they learn healthy choices for later when you have no control over them. Blood sugar doesn't drop and tantrums can be sidestepped ... hangry wee ones is no fun.
Snacking is not the enemy if it is used how it is supposed to be, eat when your hungry. Snacking for us adults becomes something else, that I definitely guilty of, that something after dinner that I don't really need , etc. But there is nothing wrong with a pick me up during the day when your energy runs low. Its healthy snacking and eating that we all need to adopt. Our children have good eating habits and we need to copy them and reinforce what they naturally know to be true to be the right way.