Until you live with a tiny human (or a couple of them), you have no idea how harrowing mealtime can actually be. I envisioned my sweet family gathered around the table, laughing, talking about our day, all eating the same delicious home cooked meal and then everyone pitches in to clean up. Well, WTF?! Obviously, I was completely delusional before I had children. It looks a little more like this: two little tyrants screaming that they are hungry and want a snack (always just before a meal, always), slaving over a hot stove just to have them absolutely hate what you’ve made, and OH, the hunger protests that seem to last for DAYS… for real!! I hear you sweet momma, I have been there (and I am still there some days). I will tell you, it does improve. With consistency and a hell of a lot of patience, you will come out of the feeding frenzy days relatively unscathed.
Here are some tips and tricks to make the mealtime madness a little more bearable:
- The #1 golden rule to remember – Kids will eat when they are hungry. The will not starve themselves. Offer healthy options at each meal (especially during those picky and defiant toddler/preschool years) and let your frustrations go! Setting strict parameters around mealtime for your mini-me is only going to cause more chaos and tears (from both of you). Save yourself the stress and let them eat at their own pace.
- Offer fresh fruits and veggies at each meal. Kids love finger foods and may be more enticed to eat these fresh options over cooked veggies. Think cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, berries, grapes…the possibilities are endless!
- It takes at least 10 times for your taste buds to adapt to a new taste. Instill the “have to try one bite” rule at each meal. Even if they have already tried it at a previous meal. They should try it again. Eventually they may acquire a taste for it.
- Don’t become a short order cook! Make one main meal for the entire family, but go ahead and include a side dish you know your child will like. Ours is noodles…. at.every.meal!! But, we all eat the same meat, vegetable, etc.
- Save their plate. If they don’t eat at dinner (or breakfast…or lunch), that’s the food they will get when they decide they are hungry.
- If they hated dinner and still protest the plate you saved, offer a healthy snack (peanut butter toast, fruit, yogurt, granola bar, etc.), but absolutely no treats or empty calorie snacks. If you pass on dinner, you pass on sweets.
- Smoothies are your BEST friend! You can hide amazing, healthy shit in a smoothie and your kiddo may be oblivious. You name it, I’ve put it in a smoothie for my kid…spinach, kale, chia sees, coconut oil…play around with combinations to find their sweet spot, and then use daily smoothies to pack in the nutrients they may be lacking.
- A daily children’s multivitamin will help bridge the gap. Just be sure to follow proper age/dosing instructions and keep out of reach! Gummy and chewable vitamins resemble candy to most kids, so be sure to put them in a spot where they can’t get to them on their own.
- Food jags are completely normal and common. Ride through it. Offer other sensible choices to accompany whatever the current food obsession may be. Eventually they will be willing to expand their palate.
- Let them pitch in! Let them set the table with you, help with meal prep and practice cleaning up their plate. Not only will you be setting the stage for good habits as they grow, but they may be more enticed to eat food that they “helped” prepare.
If all else fails…try, try again! But first, pour yourself a glass of wine! You have earned it. Mealtime can be such a pain in the ass with littles. Remember, this too shall pass. Hang in there, Motherluckers! xo