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When it came to feeding my kids during my first trimester, it was rough. And you know it gets bad when even your kids are sick of chicken nuggets and mac n cheese. I felt like my kids were asking for food all day long. There was no structure and low nutritional value. Now that I’ve been feeling much better, I’m determined to serve my children some nutritious and balanced meals and get on track with better eating habits. If your experience is anything like mine, you know that it’s easier said than done. I’ve had to go back to the basics and refresh my memory on some essential tips I’ve learned from RDN’s around the web. Don’t feel guilty, life happens, and we are just doing the best we can. If you feel overwhelmed and defeated, try taking one or two of these tips and slowly implementing them into your life.
- Serve meals at the same time every day
As previously stated in recent posts, kids thrive off of routines. The same goes when it comes to eating for the following reasons:
-Serving food around the same time every day allows children to develop a healthy relationship with food.
-It offers children a sense of security knowing they will have a chance to eat soon,
-Takes the pressure off of kids to eat when they are not hungry.
-Prevents hunger-related tantrums
- Offer a variety of foods
Offering various foods helps expose them to new foods and promote a balanced diet of vegetables, fruit, protein, fats, and whole grains. Exposure to fresh foods will help with your child’s overall food acceptance, leading to balanced and healthy eating habits.
- Serve smaller portions
Kids can be overwhelmed by large portions; smaller portions are less intimidating and lead to less food waste.
-A good guideline is that portion size for toddlers should equal about a quarter of an adult portion size.
-If a child asks for more, give ¼ of the original serving size, and continue with that amount with every request for more food.
-When serving “exposure foods” (foods you know they don’t particularly like but you want to continue exposure), give the size of half your pinky nail.
- You control what, when, and where food is served.
You control what food is in the house, what food you serve, and where meals kids eat. With this rule, mealtimes will go a little smoother if you serve at least one thing you know your child likes, along with something new or “exposure foods.”
- Kids decide what to eat and how much.
Of course, it’s good for parents to have control, but it’s beneficial for kids to decide what they put in their bodies and how much. This rule allows children to listen to their bodies and their internal cues (something kids are quite good at.) It also avoids children from developing complex eating issues (overeating and undereating.)
- Create a calming and enjoyable experience.
By creating relaxed and enjoyable experiences around food, children develop a healthy relationship with food. There are numerous ways to do this; here are a few suggestions.
-Get your child involved in the food preparation, have them help chop up fruits/veggies (with kid-friendly utensils, of course), spread the peanut butter, or help pour and mix while baking.
-Make family meals part of your routine. This rule provides the opportunity to model healthy eating habits and provides a consistent comforting presence for your child and encourages family bonding.
– Limit distractions by turning off the screens and enjoying company and food; this gives your child the space to take in the smells, taste, and texture of food, helping them become in tune with their senses.
These tips just touch the surface when it comes to feeding kids. There are numerous battles and defeats in this topic, and I know many parents feel lost. If you are experiencing extreme picky eaters or other food issues with your little kids or just getting into feeding your baby solids and don’t know where or how to start, check out these two blogs below. These women have created so much helpful and encouraging content and have been such a lifesaver for me!
As I’ve mentioned on my Instagram, I just finished my 3rd time doing kids eat in color’s easy weekday meals, and I can’t recommend it enough. It was just what I needed to get back on track and took a lot of pressure off when planning and grocery shopping for balanced meals. Here are a few reasons I love the easy weekday meals
- My kids get used to seeing vegetables at every meal, and most snacks (if they don’t always eat them, exposure is vital)
- We are all eating the same thing, so I’m making one meal for everyone.
- I buy less processed food and quick snacks; most snacks are baked and stored in the freezer – saving me money over time.
- All the meal planning and grocery shopping list are complete.
- Meals are easy to make and deliciously simple.
- There are lots of tips and additional information and alterations for allergies and such.
Guidelines I use while building plates for my kids (and myself!)
- A protein and fat at every meal and snack
- A high carb vegetable once per day (starchy vegetables)
- A low carb vegetable once per day (leafy greens)
- Fruit at least 2-3 times per day
- Mostly whole grains
Tools I use to make food more fun…especially when new or “exposure food.”
Shape Cutters – I will usually use these when introducing new veggies or “exposure foods.”
Silicone Baking Cups – Great for baking but also for serving snacks.
Bento Boxes – My kids don’t attend school but these come in handy if I need to pack food for an outing.
Kid-safe knife set– These are nice for when kids are helping in the kitchen
Plastic Divided Plates – These are the plates I use for the kids. Comes in many colors.
SAMPLE OF WHAT WE EAT IN A DAY
NUTRITION GUIDE FOR PROTEINS, FATS, + CARBS
Iannelli, MD Vincent. “Amount of Food to Feed Your Children by Age so They Can Stay Healthy.” Verywell Family, 3 Feb. 2020, www.verywellfamily.com/food-portion-sizes-2633927.
Walsh , MD Stephanie. “Packing in the Protein for Picky Eaters.” Strong4Life, Nov. 2015, www.strong4life.com/en/blog/getting-your-picky-eater-to-eat-protein.
Anderson, Jennifer. “Child Suddenly Not Eating? 5 Things to Check Right Now.” Kids Eat in Color, 7 Apr. 2020, kidseatincolor.com/child-not-eating/.
Barnes, MCN, RDN, LD, Kacie. “How Many Carbs Should My Toddler Eat?” Mama Knows Nutrition, Mama Knows Nutrition, 24 July 2018, mamaknowsnutrition.com/how-many-carbs-should-my-toddler-eat/.
Build Healthy Kids. “Build Healthy Kids: Nutrition 101: The Basics Made Simple.” Build Healthy Kids | Nutrition 101 | The Basics Made Simple, www.buildhealthykids.com/basics.html.
“Healthy Eating Schedule: Toddlers and Preschoolers.” Strong4Life, Children’s HealthCare of Atlanta , 2020, www.strong4life.com/en/pages/routines/articles/healthy-eating-schedule-toddler-style.
“Kids and Food: 10 Tips for Parents (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth.” Edited by Mary L. Gavin, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, Sept. 2015, kidshealth.org/en/parents/eating-tips.html.
McNamee,MPH, RDN, Megan, and Judy Delaware, OTR/L. “Feel Great about Feeding Your Family.” Feeding Littles, Megan McNamee, www.feedinglittles.com/.
Palanjian, Amy. “Healthy Fat Foods (and Why We Need Them).” Yummy Toddler Food, 17 Feb. 2020, www.yummytoddlerfood.com/advice/nutrition/healthy-fat-foods-for-toddlers/.
Spritzler, Franziska. “The 21 Best Low-Carb Vegetables.” Healthline, Healthline, 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/21-best-low-carb-vegetables#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2.