Getting a toddler to eat is, apparently, quite difficult. I used to hear moms bemoan the struggles of dining with children. I also didn’t quite understand the concept of why one would make salmon, rice, and fresh veggies for themselves and easy mac for their children. I didn’t understand it, but didn’t question it. Why? Because everyone does it, so I knew there was something there. And now that I’m a mom, I finally understand what all the fuss is about eating. I understand why two meals sometimes get made, I understand why kiddie snacks are so important to have on hand, I understand why battles are held at the dinner table, and I understand why parents are exasperated.
Toddlers are crazy.
Glad we got that out there. The fact is, easy mac is easy. Pre-packaged kid snacks and meals are nice to have in a pinch. And, kids like them. Toddler meal times can involve a lot of no’s, a lot of tears, a lot of playing with food, a lot of “ewww’s,” and a lot of parental frustration.
Despite all of the above, eating remains a battle that we all must conquer, because we’ve gotta live right? One thing that you may not know about cystic fibrosis is that it doesn’t only impact the lungs. Major’s pancreas doesn’t release the necessary enzymes to absorb the nutrients in his food. He takes digestive enzymes to supplement what his pancreas isn’t doing, and even then it doesn’t absorb fat soluble vitamins as well as you or I. Because of this, Major maintains a high fat, high calorie, high sodium diet. As much as I want to serve him the lean protein and vegetables we eat, that isn’t what’s best for him.
We have battled many times over meals, but have finally decided that healthy eating HABITS are our number one priority. Dictating bite after bite is not how I want to continue to have meal time. I didn’t grow up in a clean plate club and I don’t want Major to have that expectation, either!
To allow us to back off the quantity pressure, we have to make sure to bring the quality factor up. You can read here some of the ways I increase the fat and calories of each bite and sip.
Our Action Plan:
We have started eating meals as a family more, and I believe that has made a difference. On the nights we do this, Major sits with us if he gets done eating first. Often he will continue to eat off my plate, which is great. He is allowed to ask to be excused, but we usually ask him to sit with us until we are done. Prior to this change, I used to bustle around in the kitchen while Major ate near me, and Drew would be in and out of the room as well. I believe this family time is important for all of us, not just for food purposes!
Also, I’m backing off the tailor made meals for Major. He is starting to eat what we eat more, but I doctor his food up a lot. We will never have identical plates, but this is much closer!
We don’t beg for more bites. We encourage it, and we compliment him for a well eaten meal, but there is no punishment for not eating enough.
The enzymes Major takes before meals last for about 30-45 minutes. I think we all can agree that we don’t need more than 30 minutes to eat a one course meal. Plus, you get about 30 second to eat when you get to school, I hear. Thus, Major doesn’t get any longer than 30 minutes to eat unless he gets a strong second wind at the end, then we will go up to 45. If he is done actively eating in 15 minutes and says he’s full, we wrap up. If 10 minutes later he want a little something else, back to the table to eat it before the 30 minutes is up. This is typically dessert or more milk, etc.
So far, we are having good results with this approach. Meal times are mostly happy, I don’t feel like a drill sergeant, and Major is learning hunger cues just as I’d hoped he would. Our CF dietician has been very supportive of this, which gives me the confidence to forge ahead.
It seems that for toddlers, meal approaches are quite a hot topic! So tell me, what do you do with your little one?