My preschooler eats crap and I want to change that. Help!


dcrachel

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I have 3 kids, ages 8, 6, and 4. They will eat a wide variety of foods that are not too spicy.

I often use a linear approach to serving dinner: vegetables come out first, while the kids are the most hungry and sitting at the table with nothing else in front of them. I tell them that the rest of dinner is "still cooking" and will be ready shortly, but to go ahead and start. After a reasonable time, I serve the rest of dinner.

They may take one bite and say "I don't like this." I ignore this. (Saying they don't like something before taking a bite is not allowed, they have to take one bite before they tell me they don't like it; even if they have had the food before, they have to take the bite to see whether it is still true that they don't like it -- I might have cooked it a different way this time).

I try to clear the negative commentary. I encourage them not to complain about any food served to them. Whether I give it to them or someone else does, someone has worked hard to make dinner for them. I tell them it would be so nice to hear they love this dinner. They will sometimes fake loving a meal ("Mommy, I love this dinner!") but the funny thing is that it is infectious, and then others will say "I love this!" when they really do.

I completely agree with the "serve it 20 times before you give up" rule. It is hard to listen to "I don't like this!" 20 times and throw away those (small) servings of food; I believe that most people give up long before 20 times. Make a chart if you need to and track how many times you have actually offered the item. When you get to 20 times, put the item on reserve for a while and try again later. With very few exceptions, they accept the new food before I get to 10. My kids each have one or two ingredients they don't like: I still offer them but allow them to pick out the one thing I know they don't like, as long as they take a bite of it.

They may ask for milk or water to drink. I refuse any drink until the middle of dinner, and if they aren't eating a balanced dinner, give only a small cup of water.

I do serve fruit salad or other treat to anyone who finishes their dinner. It's their choice as to whether to finish. We have no battles about it; sometimes they eat and sometimes they don't.

If they say they are too full before finishing, I will cover and save the plate in case they want to come back and finish later, which many times they do. At that time, there is no dessert or treat offered for finishing.

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I have a 4 year old that I've converted to eating paleo. Although I've always been health concious he was used to eating fishy crackers and pb & j sandwiches. I had to get him used to eating healthier snacks. I've found this has really helped. I started always having a container of cut up veggies in the fridge. Instead of giving him all the same thing I"ll put in a container a couple peppers (red and yellow), cucumbers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, avocado slices, and green olives. I take these with me when we go to the gym or when he goes to school. It started out that he didn't really like them but he quickly found out that if he was really hungry and we were out somewhere where that was the only option he would eat it. Then he would realize they tasted kinda good and he got so used to eating that stuff and not the processed stuff that he really likes it now. Some days he will say "i don't like carrots today or I don't like cucumber today" but since there is only a few of each thing in the container I could usually convince him to eat everything and now it isn't an issue at all.

I also make smoothies sometimes in the morning with spinach, berries, banana, coconut milk, and ginger. Usually the berries hide the color of the spinach (well actually he knows now there is spinach in it and doesn't care) but at least he is starting the day off with one serving of veggies.

Ok one more thing that has helped me is buying little plastic containers (from The Container Store and One Step Ahead) that have different compartments in them. For some reason it can make the presentation a little better and I usually use them when we will be out somewhere and need a snack or meal. Put a few cut up veggies in one compartment, some cut up chicken breast in another and some apple slices with cinnamon in the other. Voila kids are happy!

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I too have a "spirited" 2.5 year old. There's a big difference developmentally between our two girls, but a strong will is a strong will. When I decided to do the Whole30, our kitchen got a makeover. I stopped buying pretzels, yogurt, all the quick and easy toddler foods my two little ones used to get handed when they were hungry. I didn't say anything about it, the food we used to eat is just gone (with the exception of hummus and milk 2x a day, they both still eat that). So, I realize my kids aren't going to like everything I'm eating on the Whole30. I get that. I don't like eggs that much. BUT when you take the junk away (yes, even the "healthy" junk), they start eating. It's amazed me to hear the food they are asking for in the grocery store - it's every parent's dream. They light up at the apple selection like it's Christmas. If you stop buying the junk, it's just not an option anymore and it's not your fault - "Oh, I'm sorry, we don't have those snacks any more. Here are your choices, apples with almond butter or some pistachios" I think Love & Logic could help you a ton if you haven't heard of that. Give your child a choice - as often as you possibly can (are you going to walk or am I going to carry you?). Same goal - different method of getting there. Pretty soon - if you don't allow them to manipulate you, and you follow through with your word, your child will fall into the new routine. It may not be easy at first, but just keep telling yourself that you are strong. :)

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Pretty soon - if you don't allow them to manipulate you, and you follow through with your word, your child will fall into the new routine. It may not be easy at first, but just keep telling yourself that you are strong. :)

Beautifully put. I think too many parents are afraid to let their kids throw a few fits. Once the fits pass, you've got the kid every parent wants. "Can we pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease get some radishes?!"

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I don't even know how to ask this, but what do you do when preschool/daycare/other places your kid goes without you, serves your kids crap? I mean, this is a HUGE struggle just trying to change my little family to a healthier eating plan, let alone preschool, daycare, and grandpas house! I mean I walk in to drop her off at the sitter today and she's putting s'mores together for the kids snacks! I mean, I LOVE LOVE LOVE a s'more, but for snack on a random day???!!!! I nearly burst into tears thinking "noooo. I'm trying to get her away from that crap!!" But alas, I kept my mouth shut. oy!

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I don't even know how to ask this, but what do you do when preschool/daycare/other places your kid goes without you, serves your kids crap? I mean, this is a HUGE struggle just trying to change my little family to a healthier eating plan, let alone preschool, daycare, and grandpas house! I mean I walk in to drop her off at the sitter today and she's putting s'mores together for the kids snacks! I mean, I LOVE LOVE LOVE a s'more, but for snack on a random day???!!!! I nearly burst into tears thinking "noooo. I'm trying to get her away from that crap!!" But alas, I kept my mouth shut. oy!

I let it go. When given the opportunity to supply snacks, I send in fruit and other healthy items, but I would have to fight a battle every day to get the schools to conform to my dietary preferences. I choose to make my children aware instead, and while they will always choose the sweet treats, they do verbalize about how much sugar something contains and how there are healthier options out there.

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RARELY, they will even prefer a vegetable over a sweet. It is most often my oldest (2nd grade) who does this, but it is nice to see him taking ownership of what he eats and making good choices for himself, like asking for broccoli. I expect the others to follow suit. My youngest (preschool) today asked for fresh fruit salad in his lunch, along with a peanut butter sandwich and lime yogurt. That's about as healthy as he gets so far when making all of his own choices. My 1st grader will ask for sweet potatoes and mixed vegetables in her lunch.

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I choose to set boundaries for my kids at school, and I've asked for our doctor's cooperation in doing so. I know how my kids react to gluten and dairy, and so this year when I had their physical forms filled out I asked the doctor to note "No Gluten or Dairy" and then I gave him my list of reasons why. He copied them onto the sheet and signed it. No questions asked. Now, my kids are gluten and dairy free at school.

I would encourage you to set limits with your caregivers. Be honest about how you feel about those snacks and offer to supply your own. Will your kids feel weird? Yeah. They will. But honestly, I'd rather have my kids feel a little awkward for awhile (it took 4-6 months) than deal with the after effects of gluten, dairy and HFCS (and let me add, if you've never taken your kid off that stuff, you have no idea what you're missing. Ritalin has NOTHING on paleo.) And if you choose snacks they love and it becomes less of an issue.

That's just my two cents.

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My daughter is 4 and at her playschool a parent is in charge of bringing 2 healthy snacks to share with the class on the day they volunteer. Lots of times, the "healthy snack" was store bought Rice Krispie squares with "chocolatey caramel coating" but more often than not it consists of cheese (my daughter's former fave) and assorted cracker options.

To go GFDF at school we had to send our own snack. Normally the kids get their snack just piled on a placemat in front of them, so to make it extra special my daughter got a very fancy princess lunchbox to keep her paleo muffins and dried fruit in. I was worried she would feel left out as often parents throw in a bonus treat like cookies etc but so far no issues. She knows she gets a "special snack" and that the other stuff hurts her tummy.

My friends and family have been supportive when I explain how much better the kids are doing eating this way and always have something for parties etc that the kids can eat :)

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