I have been afraid to feed my kids

3

Why? Rejection pure and simple. Rejection of the food that I worked hard to make for them, and rejection of me as a parent. I felt like a failure every time I made something and it was immediately turned down, treated as if it was poison, or – my personal fave – flung on the floor in a fit of toddler rage. Love that.

I was sure I was setting them on the right path from the beginning. I ate a varied diet while pregnant. I made all their baby food from scratch, making sure to vary taste and textures.

I was cruising along ok until early toddlerhood. Brakes were slammed on – the short rib ragu they loved? Flung. The peas that were entertaining and delicious the week before- chucked across the room in a rage.

It just went downhill from there. We got into a heavy rotation of yogurt, applegate chicken nuggets and grilled cheese phase. Some fruit. No vegetables unless I snuck them by in an occasionally allowed smoothie.

I went to culinary school for crying out loud. I never in a million years thought it would be this stressful to feed kids. I started reading all the books I could find on the topic of feeding kids- Food Chaining, Ellyn Satter books, No cry solution to picky eating – you name it I probably have read it.

The Ellyn Satter (http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org) way of thinking made sense. It is based on a division of responsibility. For parents of toddlers through adolescents this is how she breaks it down. (Different rules for infants and older babies – http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/dor/divisionofresponsibilityinfeeding.php)

  • The parent is responsible for what, when, where
  • The child is responsible for how much and whether

 

I turned it over and over in my head and rationally knew this made sense, but for some reason just didn’t trust it. I can’t explain why. I was sure I could win them over with my cooking. WRONG.

And the table was becoming a battlefield. Will would look at a plate of food and literally run screaming from the table. I was cajoling, bribing, threatening – you name the stuff you aren’t supposed to do and I was doing it. And getting no where.

Then I downloaded Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School – Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen (http://fearlessfeeding.com). It covers ideas I read in other books, particularly following Ellyn Satter’s concepts – but I read this one statement and it stopped me in my tracks.

“…if a parent insists that her child eat a certain amount, pre-plates his food, and allows for little choice at mealtime, the child can lose confidence in eating. Some children may give up and just do as they are told, whereas others show defiance, resulting in struggle and strife at the meal table, or, worse, a strained feeding dynamic between parent and child.”

I was not taking into account all the developmental changes that are happening between 2-5 and how they affects meal time. I’m an amateur at this parenting thing, you know?

This book is filled with great lessons and ideas and I am not even all the way through it.  I stuck with the first chapter on Fearless Feeding Strategy and went right to Chapter 3 – Fearless Feeding for Your Toddler and Preschooler.

And for the record: I do not know the authors, been paid by them, etc, etc. I just had to share something that was valuable and extremely helpful to our feeding practices.

So this is what I have done as a result of reading this and the other things I learned from my previous readings.

1. Schedule eating for every 3 hours. 7am breakfast, 10 snack, 1230/1 lunch, 3/330 snack, 6 dinner. Simple and I knew this was how it should go but I was not consistent.

2. Meal planning. I was not having success planning for the week but what I have been successful doing is sitting down the night before and planning the next days meals from what we had on hand or what I would be getting from the store. That method works for me.

3. This is how meals have been going:

  • Breakfast: serve a protein, fruit, carb. For example: soft boiled egg, toast with pb&j, strawberry kale yogurt smoothie. Next day – zucchini and chocolate chip whole wheat pancakes I made over the weekend and had in the freezer, milk and cut up fruit.  I put this on the table – nothing took long – toasting, boiling water, blending smoothie, microwaving pancake. 10 minutes tops since I had planned the night before and knew what I was making. Put it all in front of them. Sat down with them and they ate what they wanted to. If they wanted more egg and no toast fine – more toast, pass on the egg – great. It was there for them to decide.

 

  • Snacks: fruit/crackers/cheese in am – usually same in afternoon with an occasional treat of cookie or frozen yogurt thrown in 2-3 times a week.

 

  • Lunch: been packing lunches for camp – keeping it simple. Whole grain bagels or whole grain bread with cream cheese or pb&j depending on kid. Carrot chips, raisins, fruit, cheese stick, crackers. Stuff like this.

 

  • Dinner: this is the biggest change. I put a lazy susan in the middle of the table. On their plates I put one small serving of the protein and a carb (for example one night I made turkey breast crispy fingers with a slice of sourdough bread). On lazy susan went the accompaniments – corn/haricot verts and quinoa with feta. afraid to feed kids (1 of 1)
  • Em and Matty – had a little of everything on their plate and Matty went for seconds of quinoa (mostly to throw on the floor but I’ll take it). Will – 3 servings of the crispy turkey breast fingers with ketchup. All of us – happy.

 

afraid to feed kids2 (1 of 1) afraid to feed kids3 (1 of 1) afraid to feed kids4 (1 of 1) afraid to feed kids5 (1 of 1) afraid to feed kids6 (1 of 1)Chicken Soft Taco’s – did the same. On the plate:

afraid to feed kids10 (1 of 1)On susan:

afraid to feed kids8 (1 of 1)Matty’s plate

afraid to feed kids9 (1 of 1) Will enjoyed a tortilla with ketchup. And I am ok with that.

afraid to feed kids12 (1 of 1)And I had a delicious black bean-cabbage-salsa-guac-cheese taco:

afraid to feed kids11 (1 of 1)

Offered fruit for dessert. Matty and Em took me up on that. Everyone was content, happy and ready for bed. And my blood pressure did not go up a bit.

When we have grilled cheese or hot dogs (grass fed organic) – salad and vegetable side goes on susan. Pizza nights? The susan gets a rest then.

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  • http://jugglingwithjulia.com Julia

    Great post and comments on Fearless Feeding! My ‘babies’ are 7, 12, and 14 and I still get THE FACE sometimes when I serve something unfamiliar or particularly veggie-rific. Just last night it was ratatouille. I knew that nobody, not even the hubs, would be open-minded, so despite knowing *I* would love it, I was already angry before it came out of the oven LOL. Ah well, all the more for me. They did try it, and only one spit it out (politely into a napkin, at least there’s that). Keep up your efforts – the lazy susan idea is fab!

  • Stacy

    I could have written this myself, right down to the culinary school comment, lol. I am a big fan of Feerless Feeding as well. It helped me to relax around meal time and take a step back and not take it to heart.

  • Nicole

    I was definitely taking things way too personally when the food rejection and tantrums started! I think there are a lot of us out there…thanks for reading and commenting Stacy!