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What’s Eating at Picky Eaters: Naturally Getting Kids to Eat

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For some parents, getting their children to eat something healthy is a worry on a day-to-day basis. There’s nothing novel about my ideas on getting kids to eat well, and there’s no gimmicks, bribery, sneaking healthy foods, or magic, but it works. Many children have the ability to self regulate their food intake to maintain a healthy body and mind, however, for other kids it can be quite a challenge. Here’s a few ideas that you probably already know, but maybe have forgotten about.

How much exercise does a young child really need? A lot. I mean, A LOT! Kids have insane amounts of energy. It’s probably the biggest reason kids  jump on the bed. Even babies and toddlers need to move and wiggle and squirm way more than we think they have to. If you can take them outside at least once a day to a park or playground, that’s the easiest way to get them moving. If you’re stuck indoors, you can even find ways to get exercise like letting kids climb up and down the stairs (even babies can get heaps of exercise from doing this). Chasing a ball is the ultimate exercise. Not only will the kids be puffed, but it helps to develop their hand-eye coordination. Trampolines, made up obstacle courses, hopscotch and jump ropes for the older kids. If a child gets enough exercise, there’s a better chance that they will be really hungry and will want to eat. You don’t want a child getting so tired that they fall asleep at the dinner table though! It’s important to find a balance.

Releasing Emotional Stress
Have you ever tried to eat when you were upset? There’s no way. Kids accumulate a lot of stress from ordinary events in their daily lives. Even children growing up in the most peaceful households will still get frustrated, angry and hurt sometime. Often we feel like it’s our duty as a parent to keep a child from crying… But, supported crying is actually a very powerful tool that children (and people of all ages) posses to help them heal from stress and to release tension. So, if your child has been whining all day or seems to be on the verge of a meltdown.. let them do it! Let them have their tantrum. Chances are, afterwards, they will be much more inclined to want to eat.

Say ‘No‘ To Grazing!
This is a tough one because sometimes it seems that the only way a child will eat is if they’re walking around munching on this and that. But, basically, I just don’t make food available to be grazed upon, so therefore, it rarely gets asked for. That way, when the ‘real‘ food comes to the table, my kids devour it because they’re well and truly hungry to eat it. If my kids snack on food all day, they’ll eat like one or two bites of the meal I’ve prepared and then wander off. My little one has a fast metabolism, so sometimes she comes into the kitchen while I’m cooking and she starts screaming for food. If that is the case, I’ll give her a bite or two of something I’m making and try to avoid letting her eat too much else until the food is ready. Part of her tears are because she’s tired from the day anyway, not so much that she’s actually ‘starving to death‘.

Reduce the Amount of Packaged and Fast Food
Obviously, we live in a world where nobody has time to cook every single meal. And, sometimes you’re out and about and you need something to munch on. I certainly have packaged food in my house and we definitely eat ‘junk‘ food sometimes. But, if I limit the amount of packaged food, then when it comes time to eat a cooked meal, my kids start shoveling at meal time. Packaged and fast food has a lot of added salt and sugar, way more than usual food cooked at home. I noticed if I eat a bunch of packaged snacks one day, my home cooked food tastes bland! Also, kids have really tiny tummies and it doesn’t take much to fill them up. They may eat what WE think is only a tiny snack, but that tiny snack could be enough to fill them up so that they won’t eat any real food later on.

Ever Child Has Different Needs On Different Days
The human body is highly intelligent and knows what it needs in order to stay functioning at its maximum potential. But, a lot of times we’re either too busy or too stressed to really pay attention to what our bodies or our children’s bodies need on any particular day.

Do you ever notice how some days you’re way more hungry than others? There may also be days when you’re not feeling well, or your immune system is under stress and you  want to eat less. You also might crave certain foods on certain days. The same goes for children. It’s important to not regulate a childs diet too extremely. They need to have certain level of autonomy in what and when they eat. Some days they might feel like a mountain of pasta and other days they might feel like a heaping pile of veggies. Also, with children, their communication is often lacking so it’s not like they can say, “Hey mama, my brain neurons are building pathways today and I’m having a major growth spurt, so all I want to eat is peanut butter and avocado on toast.” They seem to keep us guessing. Like today, my little one ate at least 2 1/2 bananas and she hardly ever eats them at all! Also, if a child rejects a food one day, keep offering, (without stressing or wasting food) and they might decide later down the track that they like it.

Different Metabolisms.
My older daughter has a much slower metabolism and doesn’t need to eat very often. On the other hand, my little one has a metabolism like an inferno. She needs to eat a lot more food and more often, so I have to make sure that I’m sensitive to my child’s individual needs.

At the end of the day, it’s important not to stress too much about what your child eats. The more stress and tension you feel around mealtimes, the more they will pick up on it. But, it is important that more often than not, they are eating healthy meals. If you really suspect some sort of allergy or you think they have a food aversion because of psychological problems, it might be worth a visit to a therapist for further diagnosis. You can also play some roll playing type games with children who have a real food aversions. But, if it’s just regular old eating aversion, hopefully these tips will help!

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