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Fighting the Good Fight with Finicky Eaters to Win the Battle of Nutrition

From the time you find out you’re pregnant, if you’re like most expecting parents, the incredible joy you feel at any given moment about your child is tethered to a thousand fearful questions about his/her well-being. My Lamaze coach described this phenomenon as a sort of psychological warfare that begins at conception and doesn’t end, well, ever.

Worst, it may even feel like as your child grows so too do the number of fears.

Some parenting fears are perfectly warranted, and therefore hard to shake off. For example, are developmental milestones being reached within guidelines? Are there any of my baby’s equipment or toy recall notifications I should be aware of? Is it safer to place them on their back or stomach to sleep? According to the American Association of Pediatrics, it’s the back. (Lest you forget, remember to put the baby BACK to sleep.) But some fears are easily waylaid with a sprinkle of perspective.

According to the National Heart Association, 18% of children living in America will suffer from obesity by the age of six (circa July 5, 2016), yet a very common and real concern for many parents is whether their child is eating enough to sustain good health and promote good physical development, particularly parents of toddlers. I encountered this question recently from one of the wonderful moms I follow on Instagram:

Fortunately I was highly familiar with this situation and could offer a perspective:

By the time we are adults we are so familiar with the varying tastes of foods that, even when eating them for the first time, we can instantly describe them by simply categorizing the taste. Ask an adult about the taste of something we are eating and more than likely our response will be one word, like sweet, salty, spicy or savory. And if a food's taste doesn't fall into one of those categories we have a category for that too, "Taste like chicken." Whereas small children will use a plethora of adjectives to describe the taste of foods when asked the same question, including how the taste of the food makes them feel. As a child, I resisted trying new foods like a...? Like a toddler resisting new foods! I loved routine and the comfort I gained from daily rituals extended to my meals.

Infants are usually introduced to solid foods at around 4 to 6 months as a complement to breast or bottle feeding. The method I used when introducing my children to solid foods for the first time was to start with giving them only one food group at a time, in order to monitor for any unknown food allergies. I started out with vegetables, introducing one vegetable at a time. Then I did the same with proteins and carbohydrates, using their favorite vegetable as the “dessert” of every meal. I eventually added fruits and finally sweet fruits to the mix. I still chuckle every time my now adult daughter, eats green peas, because as a baby she really loved pureed peas, but as a toddler she would scrunch up her face and spit sold peas clear across the room. She would declare, "peas are not nice! They always trick me!" From her point of view, green peas were relegated to Loki of vegetables because they are firm on the outside but soft on the inside. That experience was an instant reminder to me that toddlers are experiencing a foods taste, odor and texture for the first time. For some kids same story, different day is more enjoyable than variety is the spice of life.

Your child’s preference for sweets will always outweigh their desire for other foods is out of your control due to the heightened development stage of the limbic system at this age. But fortunately, YOU get to set the scale for what constitutes “sweet.” For the first two years of my children’s lives, they were convinced that a sweet potato with coconut milk was the sweetest substance on earth. I also found an effective tool for getting children four and older to try new foods is to implement the "No thank you bite" rule. The premise of the the rule is the child is allowed to say no thank you to eating more of a food only after first taking a bite of that food. As both a parent and preschool teacher I can't tell you the number of "no thank you foods" that shortly turned into requested foods due to using this approach of introducing foods to a child.

My experience as a mother is that I set the expectations and I control the environment. So if I didn't purchase it at the grocery store, chances were fairly high my children didn't find it available to eat in our home. If you have already introduced foods to your child's diet and feel they are undoing your efforts to provide the healthiest lifestyle you want for them, remember you can always walk back your choices at anytime. Demonstrating the willingness to take a different approach for meeting your goals or changing goals to increase the quality of life is an invaluable lesson for any parent to model for their child.

Thank you @lovelearningeveryday for allowing me to share this thread. I am grateful for your kind words and your loving support!

Until next time, remember child development is human development.

-Miss Toni

Thank you @lovelearningeveryday for allowing me to share this thread and for your kind words

and loving support!

Until next time, remember child development is human development.

-Miss Toni

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