Strawberries, Broccoli and mac and cheese…choose your battles wisely

Anyone who has a toddler knows the challenges of finding some balance in the foods they eat. My son would eat almost everything we placed in front of him.  But my daughter, she was a different story. Her list of favored foods, well it left me scratching my head. She would eat about every fruit you could imagine, but only eat broccoli, carrots and sauteed mushrooms.

With one exception, chicken nuggets were the meal of choice for lunch or dinner. Of course, it had to be accompanied by french fries and apple juice. Yet, don’t even think about giving her a cheeseburger unless it was just plain. I mean simply the bun, hamburger, cheese and nothing else.

By the time she reached the age of 2 and a half her taste in fine cuisine had advanced to a particular staple, mac and cheese! But not just any mac and cheese. It had to be my homemade mac and cheese with elbow macaroni. In other words, it had to be “mommy made” with real cheeses, real cream, pancetta and then to get her veggie fix, broccoli and sauteed mushrooms. I made it once for the whole family and that was all she wrote.

From that point forward, she would want my homemade mac and cheese…and that’s it. It didn’t matter what foods we tried on her, if it wasn’t my mac and cheese for lunch or dinner it would simply be left untouched.

I spent countless hours in the kitchen making mac and cheese because it was her favorite food. I would make it then store it in those plastic, sealed containers. My bottom shelf in the fridge was full of them at any given time.

Does this sound familiar to any of you. As a mom and parent, I discovered that the introduction of new foods that are healthy choices into my childs diet can be somewhat of a challenge. Finding balance in their diet and keeping my daily sanity was often my goal. Just keep in mind, when it comes to fickled, picky eaters to stay calm! You may want to have that 1988 Bobby McFerrin song handy…”Don’t Worry Be Happy” because being flexible and somewhat easy going with meals is important.

They say to never let them see you sweat. Toddler’s do different things to garner attention or as a way to assert their own independence, or both. Which also means watching mom and dad pull faces of aggravation and sometimes with even fear in their eyes as they wonder what their toddler is thinking. Testing parents patience is like testing everything else they do. So have a game plan and patience with your toddlers new food experience. As long as you serve a variety of healthy foods each day, you really shouldn’t have any major concerns.

Be entirely prepared to ride out the “new food” tsunami that can arise at any time. Nobody really knows why all the fuss with new foods, but remember, it’s only a phase. With that in mind, let me say; there are some simple solutions.

First and foremost, provide small portions of new foods earlier in the day, when energy levels are high and agitation levels are at their least. Also try eating what you want them to eat. (Eating by example)

Get them involved with the food preparation process. Pouring water into a pan or steamer for vegetables to cook in, even tearing lettuce for a salad is safe and easy. It also gives them the interaction and a sense of accomplishment for helping during meal preps. Be positive and make eating meals light hearted and entertaining so they look forward to mealtime.

At first, I caved in to my fussy eater. But don’t do what I had to learn the hard way. Learn from my mistakes and avoid only making your little tykes favorites. Serving just mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, pizza, or hot dogs for meal times because that’s all they will eat, is not a good idea. Keep trying those new foods with varied food groups.

By offering an array of foods throughout each day, like say vegetables with a side of berry yogurt. Or meatloaf with steamed carrots. Your child will instinctively eat whenever they are hungry. Don’t beg them to eat. Don’t even push them to eat. Encourage them to eat and try each new food. Following these suggestions can and will keep balance, happiness and wellness in both you and your toddler’s life.

 

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