First of all, let me state the obvious: mothers (fathers, too, but particularly mothers) really do not want their children to be hungry. For this reason, many toddlers end up eating a diet entirely of macaroni. These pint-sized, chubby-faced tyrants by no means would let themselves starve, but they have their mothers, otherwise reasonable adult women, believe that if they do not eat the broccoli and baked chicken that night, they will not survive until breakfast, and will, in fact wither away in their sleep.
In fear of impending death by starvation, the mother, in desperation, tries to offer no less then thirty-three other dinners that night, all rejected by the little tyrant, as he or she knows that in the end, they will be the victor. After several weeks of this ensuing battle, the mother, dejected, stops making the other dinners as the outcome is always the same. Further efforts at variety and healthy foods for kids are abandoned. The child continues to dictate their meals indefinitely, ultimately leading to a diet consisting entirely of processed foods and juice.
What has happened? And, I beg you to consider, what is happening to the other children of the world in countries where perhaps Goldfish crackers do not exist? How do those families get their children eat what they serve? It is pretty simple, actually. They just do not have another option, so they either eat what they are served or they are hungry. And I promise, they do not wither. What happens instead of withering, is they learn to eat what they are served. (And as a side effect, that they are in fact, NOT in charge.)
Being a mother of three little girl tyrants myself, I am not pretending that this is not a difficult task. Being a pediatrician, I insist you at least try. There will be much whining and crying – at first. Then you will realize it is all for the best and you will get it together, as will your children. So here is what you do, step by step (for reals, it totally works):
- Veggies should be half of your child’s plate every night at dinner. Don’t get mad! Just wait! Give me a chance. What I mean is, put one or two tiny carrots, 2 or 3 leaves of spinach, a cherry tomato, a piece of broccoli, you get the idea. You can also put a few pieces of fruits. It is much easier to eat a little bit of many things then ten pounds of broccoli at one sitting. You see how these are all raw? Easier to “make” and packed with nutrition. HALF of your and your child’s plate should be fruits and vegetables at every meal.
- Lean protein, no bigger then your child’s fist.
- Starch – most optional component of any meal. Consider whole foods such as quinoa, barely, brown rice. Potatoes are very healthy as long as they don’t come from a box. Make a whole bunch of starch, enough for two or three nights so you can save the step of cooking. Again, about the size of your child’s fist.
- Dairy – low fat milk, cheese, yogurt. It is essential we ALL get the necessary calcium and vitamin D. If your family does not like these products, try sneaking them in. For example, milk with oatmeal or a healthy whole grain cereal. Pizza can be healthy on occasion and is a good source of protein, calcium, vitamin D from the cheese, and other vitamins from the sauce. If you make your own, you can sneakily puree other veggies into the sauce, buy a whole wheat crust, and voila! Other options are almond milk, soy or rice milk, etc.
- Water – drink it. It’s free. Not the other stuff (except milk). No negotiation. Enough said. (I don’t like to hear “I don’t like water and neither does my child” 6 billion people in the world drink flavorless water. I have faith that you, too, can do it.)
If your child chooses not to eat dinner – which is highly likely for a few weeks if this is not what they are used to eating – they may have it later. Consider if your dinnertime is too early following afternoon snack; if so, either lessen the amount of snack or move dinner to later. They may also have a piece of whole fruit or vegetable before going to bed (for most normal children this is the less appealing choice). They may NOT have a processed snack, sandwich, cereal, etc. or they will not learn to eat dinner at dinner-time. Remember, you will likely throw out about one month’s worth of food before they try it and then another month’s before they eat it.
Lastly, a quick word about snacks. Snacks should be whole foods such as nuts, pumpkins seeds, raisins, fruits perhaps with peanut butter, veggies with hummus and so on. Snacks were intended to be a healthy supplement to our diets but have deteriorated into “junk food” time. Take back the snack!
Remember, humans were eating these whole, healthy foods for thousands of years before we mucked it up in the last thirty, leading to an obesity crisis starting in infancy, people! Get yourselves and your families healthy again and get back to basics!
4 thoughts on “Get Back to Basics: Feeding Our Children and Ourselves from a Pediatrician Mom”
Guilty as charged. I have one kid in particular who loves his carbs and not much else. I need to remember he won’t starve if I only offer healthy foods and he can take or leave them. Thanks for the reminder, Dr. Anna! (And congrats on publishing your first WMAG post.)
I think we all have one of those kids! I need to constantly remind myself to stay strong!
Sometimes it’s hard to determine if healthy eating is tougher on the kiddos or the adults…but it is a worth while investment in your child’s health and habits. Thanks for making it simple!
Can you be contacted privately? 🙂