Food Fight: Feeding Toddlers

My son sat on his high chair like royalty. On this particular morning, he was displeased with the breakfast offerings from his peasant father.

“Eggs! Peasant please,” I’m sure my son was thinking as he grabbed a fistful of scrambled egg and launched it at the table. Another fistful ended up directly on the floor. Eggs were not on the menu.

This was discouraging. Eggs had been my go-to-breakfast for many, many months. In fact, I had evolved from making eggs in a frying pan to microwaving in a mug in just one minute. It was quick, easy and allowed me to begin coping with the fact that I was awake at 6:30am on a Saturday morning.

But now his majesty was not amused with eggs and required something different. Perhaps an egg Mcmuffin or hotcakes or something else on the McDonald’s all day breakfast menu (which is not completely true because I’ve yet to find a location that serves the egg, bacon and cheese biscuit after 10:45am).

My son whined, complained and demanded something else. But who knew if that wouldn’t end up on the floor as well? Parents and teachers know very well the difficulties of feeding a toddler. It feels like a never-ending meal service, offering up food and seeing if it is worthy of consumption. Eventually, these meals can turn into battles, confrontation, and, if left unattended, routine stress in your day.

Fortunately me dear parents and teachers, there is help and it revolves around control. There are some rules to this battle and, if you know them, this will make the food fight a less stressful experience. Perhaps it will be less of a struggle and more of a, *gasp*, meal.

During meals, both the adult and the toddler have control over portions of the battle, erg… meal.

Adults Control…

The Food Options

I’ll be honest, when I’m feeding my son early in the morning, nutrition and preparation time are the two factors that will determine what HRH (His Royal Highness) will eat. Many times though, prep time wins out. The faster, the better. As I gain meal experience, I’ve expanded the repertoire. And, as I phase out the preparation time aspect (have food prepared in advance, trust me), then I can just focus on adding variety and nutrition. Believe me, when my son doesn’t eat options 1-5, I’m still not worried because I still have options 6-12.

Bottom line: Less stress.

Eating Time

My son has been known to stand by the food pantry and beg for food. Most of the time, I’ll give in because it usually means it’s time for him to eat.

But the times when I’m eating something and he wants to eat it too, I’ll give him a bite, but he won’t be getting a whole meal. Yes, he’ll complain and whine. Perhaps something like this…

“His Royal Highness demands another bite of your egg, bacon and cheese biscuit.”

Perhaps I can go to another room and eat like a scrooge. But the fact is, he should eat according to a schedule or when he’s hungry, not when he sees me eating.

Toddlers should have three main meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is also the mid-morning snack, mid-afternoon snack, and, if necessary, a snack before bedtime. They shouldn’t be eating when you eat in addition to their own meals and snacks. They are getting plenty of food.

Toddlers Control…

Which food will be eaten

Over many a sunrise, I’ve acquired options for breakfast that HRH prefers. Here’s a short list:

  • eggs
  • string cheese
  • Cheerios
  • rice crispies
  • oatmeal
  • whole wheat pancakes
  • toast
  • bananas

However, there are days when eggs just won’t cut it. On the other side, there are weeks when my son will just eat bananas in the morning. In fact, I believe there was a stretch when he only ate foods that were yellow: bananas, eggs, and Cheerios (the box).

I can’t control what he eats, but I can be prepared to have a variety of options available so, after I’m done showing him container after container of food, there will be one that unveils a smile on his face.

How much food will be eaten

I’ll make my son a scrambled egg and he nibbles at it. He’ll have a bowl of oatmeal and he’ll consume that and two more bowls. He’ll eat a third of a banana, toss the middle third on the floor, and then reach out with the last third and ask me to eat it. Then he’ll whine, indicating that he’s still hungry. Just like there may be no pattern about which food will be eaten, so to about how much food will be eaten. The toddler is in control.

There may be reasons why the amount of food consumed changes, such as physical growth, teething, taste, or the toddler just wants to eat a little or a lot. Bottom line, as much as we adults want to believe that there is an amount of begging or bartering or commanding we can do to coerce a toddler to eat more food, there isn’t. Accept it.

Hope these rules of engagement helps out at 6:30am in the morning. Coffee and a variety of Coffeemate flavors helps too.

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