By Rosanne Jones MS RD CDN Pediactric Outpatient Dietitian, Center for Development, Behavior and Geneticis
Your baby is a good eater. When he was born, he took breast milk or formula without problems. He grew and progressed through all the baby foods and textures eating like a champ. Now, he is eating all types of table foods.
Until one day you plop a piece of lasagna (lasagna is just a fictional dislike, it could be any food) in front of him. The lasagna is a no-go; the nose squinches up, the eyebrows furrow and there is an expression of pure disbelief on his face that you have given him this food to eat. He gazes into your eyes as if to say “”help me!””
What do you do? Do you get up from the table to make him a grilled cheese sandwich or open a can of spaghettios? What happens the next time you make lasagna? Will you never make lasagna again? Do you make a second meal right from the start so that your child doesn’t have to eat that delicious nutritious lasagna? The answer is a resounding NO, NO and NO!
Babies grow very fast in the first year, tripling their birth weight, and then the rate of growth slows down from age 2 to the years before puberty. Quite naturally their appetite decreases during the periods of slower growth and increases during growth spurts. The valley between growth spurts can look like picky eating because the food they used to like, they no longer will eat, they pick at their food or they don’t want to try new foods anymore. The truth is they may just be growing more slowly and don’t need as many calories so they eat less.
The real advice is to consistently serve the meals made for the family to everyone in the family. In the wise words of Ellyn Satter, who devised the idea of The Division of Responsibility, ‘‘……trust in your child’s ability to eat what he needs and in his ability to grow in the way nature intended. Once you have done your feeding job of providing nutritious food, it is up to your child to eat what and how much he needs……’’
Other tips for health eating habits:
Pay attention to portion size Kids 5 years old and under require portion sizes about half the size of an adult portion size.
Beware of short order cooking This is food your child will usually eat but is not as nutritious as the meal you have prepared. If your child gets to eat this alternate meal each time, he may not grow as nature intended.
Avoid the idea of kid food You want them to grow up on the same diet as yours.
Be a good role model try new foods in front of your child.
Make dinner conversation about anything other than the meal itself.
So when you do serve that lasagna, put a small portion on your child’s plate along with a favorite veggie. Put something else with the meal like a piece of bread and a glass of milk. Your child will not go hungry if they have all that to choose from. Then button your lip about what he or she is eating or not eating. Relax, serve yourself some and talk about the weather.
Check out Ellyn Satter’s website for other recommended stratigies to work with feeding your child. http://ellynsatterinstitute.org.
Books to help you with a picky eater recommended by Mary Laverty Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital
More Peas Please by Kate Di Prima and Dr. Julie Cichero 2009.A must-read guide to finding nutritious solutions for fussy eaters from first foods that won’t be spat out to lunch box fixes the envy of the playground. More Pea Please is an across-the-board guide to helping children learn to happily eat a variety of healthy foods. It examines the importance of feeding kids a balanced diet, helping them overcome negative responses to certain foods, and the significance of early feeding experiences on speech development. It also contains loads of easy, fuss-free recipes for delicious, family-friendly meals.