About two weeks ago Annabelle learned how to unbuckle herself from her booster seat. Now, when you have twins (or I suppose more than one child) everything has to be the same. When Maddy realized Annabelle was free from the confines of her booster seat, she too wanted the same freedom. It is so hilarious, they literally have radar for what the other one is doing. Maddy would call to Annabelle in her toddler pronunciation (you can imagine, how cute) to come help her unbuckle. They are always coming to each others aid. It is so sweet! Totally, best buddies!!
Now that they are free, every meal is a true adventure. Combine this new found freedom with the realization that they don’t necessarily like everything that’s in front of them and you have a perfect combination for mealtime stress. When the boys were little, this was hugely stressful to me because I knew they needed certain foods everyday. I also did not want to waste the food I had worked so hard to prepare. Now…I have a strategy.
I know that the most important thing right now is to not create a big food phobia. I want the girls to realize the importance of eating their main meal foods before they get a treat. But, I don’t want it to turn into a battle where everyone is stressed and mealtime becomes something they dread.
I simply tell them that they need to eat what is on their plate first and then they can get their treat. The boys know the drill by now…if you don’t eat your dinner, you don’t get anything else. What I make is what is for dinner. If you don’t eat your meal, whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner…it will be waiting for you the next time. I stay positive about it and neutral in emotion. I simply wrap it up and plate it for them the next time.
Here are two leftover plates. The top is William’s dinner plate from a couple weeks ago. He had leftover tuna noodle salad from lunch at school. I added his leftover stuffed pepper stuffing from the night before. Then I combined those with a tomato, avocado, broccoli and swiss chard salad and steamed green beans.
The bottom plate is one of the girls’ plates with their lunch tuna leftover and dinner from the night before. They also had a little bit of chicken, peppers and olives from breakfast and the two fresh sides.
Sometimes they throw a fit or say they are not eating. I simply say, ok and wrap it up. Usually, it only takes two meals and they realize they are hungry and need to eat.
I believe that they have not stopped liking vegetables. I know that their tastes have not completely changed. I do know they have a new found freedom, tons of energy and curiosity. They want to play and have no sense of time or prediction that they may be hungry in the middle of the night. They don’t realize they won’t get a great night’s sleep if they don’t eat dinner. That is for me to teach them and more importantly for them to figure out and make the connection.
I keep them interested and connected with what they are eating. I use the garden and our time together to prepare food to help them realize this is how we roll in our house.
This is a stage that is so critical. If you cave into the food fits or appease their demands for snacks…crackers, cereal or highly palatable foods. Of course that is what they will want. All they know is how a food tastes and how they feel after eating it. They don’t realize the importance of sitting down to a meal. They only know that they can quickly eat some crackers or cereal and still run around and play. They don’t understand why they need to eat high quality, clean protein and tons of veggies. They veggie pouch or chicken nuggets are easier to eat and simulate those pleasure sensors in their brains.
Yes, my kids have treats. They have chocolate, cookies, pie and ice cream. They have crackers, plantain chips and popcorn. If it’s a sweet treat, I make it so I know it is not overly sugary, I use quality sweeteners and add some nutrition to it to balance out their hormonal response. If it’s a salty treat, I make sure that there is nothing harmful in the ingredients and the oils used are not inflammatory. That way they don’t crave sweets or keep wanting more after having a taste.
I look at it like this…the little struggles that happen now are on my shoulders. My hope this will take the struggles from their shoulders one day. I hope they will retain the memories and make good choices for their bodies.
What are your tricks to the trade? Please feel free to go to my Facebook page and share your stories.