Guest Blogger: Emi Kirschner, CHHC
Nutrition, Mindset, Lifestyle Coach, Speaker, Author
I used to have the pickiest eater on the planet.
When my oldest son was four and ate only four things. Yeah.. really, only four. That was it. All day every day he rotated through apples, yogurt, granola bars and the best one… Frozen Uncooked Ravioli… don’t ask. I honestly don’t remember how we discovered that one. I was just grateful that he ate anything. I would have done anything, and I mean ANYTHING to have him eat more. He would graze all day with a little something here and a little more later on. He was never hungry during dinner and I was frustrated beyond belief. Until one day, when I decided I was done negotiating with a 4 year old, and I changed the way I approached feeding him. The constant snacking was one of the first things to be “revised” after I started paying more attention to how much he was eating. I realized there was no way he could be hungry for lunch or dinner with all the “snacks” he was having.
Young kids really need to have a snack in between meals. Depending on the age and individual child, a morning or both a morning and afternoon snack is appropriate. The problem arises, as studies are showing that our kids are snacking much more than they used to. In fact recent studies show that the calories consumed from snacks count for 27% of total calorie intake, and has increased dramatically. Our kids are consuming 168 calories a day more in snack foods than in 1977. Unfortunately, what our kids are eating for snacks tends to be high in sugar or salt and low in nutritional value.
As obesity and type 2 diabetes is still a grow concern with more and more children affected, the lessons you teach your kids now about food will create the basis for how they view food as adults. I see this over and over again as I work with my clients. When they change what they eat, their kids, over time will be more open to eating healthier. As far as snack goes, make it what is really supposed to be, a bridge from one meal to another to maintain energy.
Try these tips to make meal times easier and your kids healthier:
Snacks are a mini-meal. Grazing was one of my son’s favorite activities because he could eat while he played. Neither one of us knew how much he actually consumed. Make snack time be like any other meal. Sit down, at the table, a coffee table or on the floor and have your child stop doing whatever it is he/she is doing. This teaches them to eat what they need to and to learn when they are full, preventing overeating. A little bonus of making this a practice is if your child is used to sitting down to eat, it makes going out to eat, much, much easier.
Choose healthy snacks and on occasion give your kids 2 options, either the apple or some grapes. This gives them the feeling like they have some say, which they should. Eating and when they go to bathroom are the two things little kids get to control in their world. Everything else is pretty much decided. Include other healthy options such as cheese, hummus and veggies, plain or vanilla yogurt (much, much less sugar and less of a chance for artificial sweeteners,) etc. I like to use leftovers for snacks too. A little left over grilled chicken, goes a long way.
Check in. By far, my favorite is having a conversation. Both my kids used to tell me they were hungry, usually about 30 minutes after we had dinner. Before giving them anything else to eat we played a little check in game. Are you tired? Are you bored? Is your stomach really empty? Do you need to go to the bathroom? Are you thirsty? Usually, my kids were bored or tired and we would come up with ways to relax before bed or something else to do. Teaching your kids to check in with themselves is an invaluable skill that will make them more aware of what their bodies really need. They will be less likely as teens to have eating disorders or feeling guilty while standing in front of the freezer eating a half gallon ice cream as an adult because they will recognize what they really want.
A couple months after I decided that my son was no longer going to be the pickiest eater on the planet, I realized that the frustration, the battles and the epic negotiating had stopped. His mood was much better, he wasn’t bothering me every two minutes for something else to eat and we were having much more fun together. Today he is 17 and he eats pretty much everything. If your child maybe isn’t quite the pickiest kid on the planet, and maybe is choosier than most. Be assured by implementing even one small change, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
If you want to know more about turning your French Fry into a Foodie...I invite you to be a part of my program. It's all about changing your family's mindset around food so that food is freeing, fun, and a path for health. Join me in creating foodies out of YOUR child.
Emi Kirschner, CHHC Nutrition, Mindset, Lifestyle Coach, Speaker. Author.