Monday, June 28, 2010

Teaching Appetites

Eating issues usually plague all young parents.  Too much?  Too little?  Too junky?  Too healthy? (really?)  We spend a lot of our time trying to figure out how, when, what and even where we should feed our children.  This issue can bring division amongst parents, grandparents and peers.  And it really shouldn't.  Today's lesson will help give you some suggestions, ideas, thoughts about the Feeding of Your Progeny.  Who knows?  You might even pick up some applications for yourself!
Just so you can rush ahead to the end of the chapter, let me tell you that my kids are good  eaters. Have always been so. We all enjoy food; the planning, the preparation and the partaking.  This did not just happen.  Their attitudes about food was intentional and instilled at a young age.  This plan has worked with them and I hope will inspire you.  Let's Begin.

1. Reduce the amount of exposure of salt and sugar early on.  Salt especially.  Pretty addictive and sets the standard for cravings for the Love of Salt pretty early.  Also numbs the palate for the freshness of vegetables and reduce the needs for fresh foods to be 'doctored'.
2.  No eating outside the boundaries of meals. That means no grazing, no snacking, no in between meals eating.  Your digestive system needs a break and allowing grazing only keeps the stomach constantly in a state of digestion, not allowing a true appetite to develop.  Now, did I starve my kids?  Silly.  There are approved foods: whole wheat bread, fruits and juice, carrots etc.  But in moderation.  It doesn't take much to stave off hunger for a few hours.  And remember, when they eat well at their meals, they snack less.  The adjustment to a new routine will be interesting, but well worth it.
3.  Notice the plates in the photo.  The small one is a bit smaller than a dessert plate.  The white one, a dinner plate and the Blue Willow (nice, huh?), a platter.  I served my kids on the smallest plate. And in way small amounts.  A tablespoon of vegetables, a few cut up pieces of meat, a scoop of potatoes. Do not overwhelm them.  Cruel?  No, manageable to small tummies!  Much better to have them ask them for more than for you to keep at them the whole meal to eat their food.  Less stress; better appetite.  Picture yourself eating off a platter every night.  That is what a standard dinner plate looks like to an average toddler/child.  On the day that they 'graduate' to a big plate, what an accomplishment that is!
4.  And speaking of plates, use them.  A few years ago, when a trio of junior high girls came to my house after school for supper and church group, I had to literally teach them how to use utensils!  Their typical fast food diet had them eating with their hands most of the time.  One young girl admitted that her mother still cut her meat.  I taught her how to hold a fork and use a knife.  14 years old.  Sit at the table with your children, making dinner an event, a celebration of the opportunity to nourish your body for service.  If children get used to seeing meal time as a privilege and not a chore for their over taxed digestion, their appetite will increase.  And their cravings will be for better things. 
5.  I always told my kids that a good meal was a ticket for all the dessert they could eat. And I usually had dessert of some kind.  Real desserts; cakes, ice cream, cookies, brownies.  And I meant it.  But I knew that their appetites brought on  good eating of good food and there certainly were times that dessert was refused.  Amazing but true.  When all the cookies they wanted was offered after a day of good eating, maybe three were taken. Documented.
6.  No candy was ever permitted in the morning (or sugared cereals; might as well give them candy!) Only after lunch or supper.  When my kids were old enough to go on youth retreats, I remember them being appalled that anyone could/would eat candy and drink pop first thing in the morning.  They're still pretty careful about their morning fuel.
7.  Night time snacks kept them for the night, especially if there was outdoor summer night's play going on.  A tray of fresh fruits, crackers, cheese and juice after their baths, kept their engines purring until the Breaking of the Fast.  And it was a great way to unwind with their days.  They would sit on our porch, all sweet smelling from their baths and shampoos that Dad would supervise, while I would be making the tray.  Sometimes the only way I got them to come in after a  long day of summer time play, would be to promise A Tray.  They loved the ritual.  They still talk about it as adults.

This is but a sampling of Handy Ideas To Defeat The Food Struggle With Your Young Children.  Not exhaustive but primer-like.
Bon Appetit, my little friends!

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