Are kids picky or are they full on snacks?

Are kids picky or are they full on snacks?

I know, the title is abrasive and obnoxious. Completely intended because now of course you are into the second sentence of this blog. Almost all children like to exert control during meal time.  I’m not a child psychologist, but from watching my own children and hearing the stories of so many mothers, I believe MOST pickiness stems from two factors:

1. A child’s predisposition to good ole’ fashioned stubbornness.

A plate with sections allows the child to choose and see the colors. Often I will feed the kids parts of the main meal that my husband and I are eating. a lot of children prefer their foods separate rather than mashed together.

  • My children have written the book on “stubborn”. Even as I write that statement, I think most mothers would argue that, no in fact their children wrote that book. The brutal truth that I am known for as a health coach is: your children are animals and as long as there are no extenuating circumstances, they will eat when hungry.
  • Choices are overwhelming for children, so I try to limit choices to only 2. For example, would you like oatmeal or cereal? An apple or grapes? Broccoli or Brussels sprouts? Smoothie or muffin? If both choices are healthy and identified as foods that your child will entertain, both you and the child win. The third option is that they will be hungry. Refer to top bullet. Of course the work is in identifying the list of nourishing foods that your child will eat and like!
  • For the stubborn child that wants control over her circumstance, a sectioned plate is ideal. I preface each meal with, “you don’t have to eat it all, but you need to try some of everything.”
  • A caveat is that if YOU are eating potato chips, gold fish, cookies, and sodas, why would your child eat anything different?

2. Your child isn’t hungry because he or she has eaten too many snacks prior to meal time. I understand how this happens. It happens to the best of us. Most frequently the toddler at home is the habitual offender. Breakfast turns into second breakfast, then she doesn’t eat all her lunch, then she needs an afternoon snack, and then dinner isn’t ready but she’s begging for something to eat. A child’s plea for food is far too strong, so you cut another apple or dole out a handful (or three) of crackers. It is so subtle that we are confused, why will you NOT EAT YOUR DAMN VEGGIES?!

My most stubborn of the two giving the thumbs up to gimbap, a type of Korean sushi.

  • Intentionally sitting down with your child while he or she eats will encourage her to eat when meals are served. I notice that when I’m up and about, my youngest wants to be up and about too. If I sit down to eat all three meals with her, she usually eats at meal times.
  • If the snacks are inevitable, keep them light. Fruit, popcorn, apple sauce, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, a handful of cashews, or rice cakes with almond butter or hummus to name a few.
  • If the kids are hungry at 4:45, and dinner is ready, go ahead and feed them! I understand waiting for spouses, but I notice that when parents give themselves the freedom to obey hunger rather than the clock, they avoid the 5 o’clock meltdown. One client completely eliminated a toxic load of sugar from her daughter’s diet AND eliminated a chaotic bedtime routine by changing dinner hour to 5:30-6:30, instead of waiting for her husband to come home from work. There is still opportunity for a family to connect over the dinner table, even if the children have already eaten. This philosophy is especially true with the 5 and under crowd.

I understand and sympathize that this is a frustrating subject for many families. What I have learned by listening to mothers is that the answer is usually quite obvious; however, when we are so close to the problem we can’t see clearly what needs to change. Day after day we perpetuate the same behavior that creates a challenging home environment. I encourage my clients to try one recommendation at a time, and celebrate every single small win! As a parent, YOU know YOUR child better than anyone else. You have studied their preferences and behaviors since the day they were hatched, allow your instinct to guide!