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Whoa That’s A Lot Of Days To Make Dinner In A Row!
If mealtimes are starting to feel a lot less like a time of peace and connectivity and a lot more like a UN negotiation, read on. My pal Alyssa Miller of @nutrition.for.littles is both a mama and a picky eating specialists who is passionate about helping families build strong families and overcoming picky eating struggles. How does she do this? Low pressure techniques that gently help your little ones o try new foods in a way that works and feels good to you as a parent! Alyssa is sharing her best tips and tricks for getting kids to eat because they want to, not because we said so, on Episode 55 of Fulfilled – The Podcast!
Alyssa is the host of the Nutrition for Littles podcast, co-host of The Mama Well podcast and creator of Table Talk, the picky eating program that works! She helps you raise healthy, happy and independent eaters for life.
Let’s talk meal planning. Nope, not the crazy, Pinterest-worthy version where you prepp 300 days of vegetables in matching tupperware, the kind where you have a plan for what you are going to feed your family BEFORE you start to feed your family.
Alyssa talks about some light prepping to make our weeks better: chop vegetables for more than one meal at once. Wash the cutting board once for 4 meals instead of 4 times for those same 4 meals.
Incorporate the same vegetable multiple nights a week. This will let your kiddos be repeatedly exposed to the same veggie and save you time in the chopping department.
Knowing what you are going to eat before dinnertime rolls around takes away that panic of trying to figure out what to feed your hangry toddler while your toddler is demonstrating their hangry-ness. Try deciding by lunchtime, the day before or even a week in advance when you do your grocery run! This takes some of that dinnertime stress away!
Planning in advance and doing some prep work early can help to change the tone of dinner, so you can sit down to a calmer meal without being stressed to the max, because none of us wants that!
Ok – so how do we know if we have a picky eater? Because, sometimes kids don’t eat what we serve, sometimes they don’t like vegetables, new foods or things with strange textures. Alyssa shares with us that picky eating is a gut feeling that you have – when you have a kiddo that has a very small amount of foods that are “safe” – meaning they predictably eat them.
When should we get help from a feeding therapist, pediatrician, dietician or other professional? When your picky eating kiddo starts dropping those safe foods, consistently skipping meals or is having trouble maintaining their weight or staying on their own growth curve.
It’s important to remember to be your kiddos advocate. Your pediatrician, therapist, dietician, they all want what’s best for you children. But you, mama… you are the expert in your own child. Seek help when you have that gut feeling that something just isn’t right and your child needs some extra care and help to make sure they are getting the best nutrition!
Bribing, Cajoling and Encouraging = Pressure at the Table
“Just 3 more bites.”
“We can play as soon as you eat.”
“Clean your plate!”
“I made this and you are going to eat it!”
Whoops – pressure, cajoling and encouraging our kids is a slippery slope. It’s so easy to do. It comes from a place of love. We want our children to eat well. We know that it’s important for them to have a healthy and diverse diet with foods from different food groups and robust variety. So, we resort to pressure.
We try to determine how much food is enough and we start to negotiate with them… The truth is that at first, this pressure can actually work to get kids to eat. The problem is that it’s a slippery slope, changes the power dynamic, and it’s teaching our kids to listen to external cues about how much and what to eat. As Alyssa shares in her interview, pretty soon it has gone from “You can play in the play place if you eat your meal” to “Lick the chicken and I’ll give you a pot of gold, honey!”
So, what do you do instead? We let our children lead the way. They are, when born healthy, naturally intuitive eaters. They cry when they are hungry, they drink or nurse until satisfied fullness and then they’ve had enough.
By getting out of the way, we let our children learn to tune into their hunger cues and start to eat because they enjoy it, because food tastes good, because they need to fuel their bodies, and to listen to that sensation that tells us we’ve had enough.
Setting a “Good Example”
One of the very best things we can do to help our kids with nutrition and mealtimes is to heal our own relationship with food. If you’ve been a mama who, in the past, has struggled with weight, body image, been on a “meal plan”, had a diet, or has had a rocky relationship with food, this section is for you!
The very best thing we can do for our children is to work to heal our body image and to learn to eat intuitively, based on what our own body is telling us. To be transparent, this is a new pursuit of mine and absolutely a work in progress. I’ve followed “meal plans” off and on and restrictive diets for arbitrary reasons in the past.
Alyssa shares with us that “The best thing we can do for our children is to pursue health through habits and behaviors that feel good to us and to eat our meals intuitively and in front of our children.” Ugh! You mean we have to do the work to heal ourselves in order to show our kids the way? Yep, that’s exactly what she means!
If you are ready to do the work, if you want to learn more about picky eating and what to do if you’ve got a picky eater at home, or if you are interested in learning more about gut healthy, healthy immunity, how to build your kiddos plates and more, check out the full interview with Alyssa here!