Several months ago, Darrick and I really started working on changing the way we eat and feed our family. It's not just about what foods we choose, but about our attitudes in general. He has a chip on his shoulder about dairy products, for example, insisting on whole fat products instead of reduced or non-fat. I am super picky and love sweets. We're not perfect, but we decided to start working together to find ways to get more healthy food in our bellies and more positive interactions around meals: shopping with the kids and talking about why we eat certain foods, prepping dinner as a family, letting the kids make their own sandwiches, etc. But one elephant in the room was Luca and her tiny appetite.
Luca is a healthy kid. She is smart and strong and loves healthy foods. But she also loves junk food and doesn't eat much quantity of food, meaning it's really easy to get through an entire day with her and realize she's barely eaten from 3 of the 4 main food groups. We've struggled to get her to eat healthy foods in enough quantity to get her nutrients that she needs, and we have struggled even more over how much we should push her. Like a typical toddler, when we push she pulls, and it never ends well.
So we decided on a new approach. No repeatedly asking her to eat. No nudging her to finish her plate. If she refuses a meal, that's fine; she can eat something healthy later when she says she's hungry. And if meals aren't working, we move to healthy smaller items, like half an apple with some peanut butter and a low-fat string cheese or some slices of turkey and a yogurt. It's not ideal, and it drives my husband more batty than it drives me, but we're conscious of not wanting to make food an issue with her, and so far this method is working.
Most successful? Giving her some options of healthy foods she loves and can eat in smaller quantities. Less of a 'meal' as our generation knows it and more of a healthy plate of foods she can eat and will enjoy, and which will give her the things she needs.
The other night, I gave her some options for dinner, and she ended up with this meal. She not only ate the whole thing, she asked for more. She was so proud of her meal she kept calling it her "Very Special Customed Lunch Just for Me and Only Me." In the end, she ate about 2 oz of hummus, a tbsp of peanut butter, 1.5 pitas (amazing for her, since she's not a bread lover), 8 baby carrots, and a handful of blueberries.
The real winner here was the pita cut out to make the letters of her name. She LOVED them, so I'll definitely try to find ways to incorporate more fun into her fuel in the future.