True Parent 5
Parents worry so much about what their kids eat, and don’t eat.
In most places in the world, kids eat what they are given. Certainly, some are pickier than others, but those of us lucky enough to have choices in what we eat, and how we feed our children, tend to overthink the process.
Just like adults, many kids will prefer simple carbohydrates, fatty foods, and sugary treats. But in the same way we would not trust toddlers to make financial decisions for the family, we shouldn’t entrust them with decisions about what the family eats.
My fondest wish for any family is that they can make and eat good food together: fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and some source of calcium. Provide a balanced diet, and a nurturing environment with loving family members to eat with, and any kid can thrive.
A few key points:
• Most kids need smaller portions than many parents think. In general, the amount of a food that fits on the palm of that child’s hand is a reasonable quantity.
• Allow children to eat when they are hungry, and to stop when they’re full. Self-regulation is key and they can’t learn it if we don’t give them the chance.
• Allow your kids to help you choose and prepare foods. Eat with them and role model good eating behaviors, and learn to trust them. It takes 10-15 exposures to a new food before many kids will take to it. That is a lot of broccoli under the table, so to speak, but the investment in building an adventurous eater will pay off.
• Do not paint yourself into the “chicken nugget/mac & cheese corner.” If your child learns they can get what they want by holding out, then they’ll continue to try and win that game—and everyone loses.
• Very few children need supplemental nutritional drinks. In most cases, they can actually interfere with the development of healthy eating habits. Save your money, and save your worry.
If you feed them, they will eat. It just takes a little trust, some good food, and lots of love.
Dr. Hoffman is a nationally recognized injury prevention specialist, and general pediatrician at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.