Nutrients and Your Baby. Part 2

…continued

Once your child hits the preschool years it becomes more difficult to keep their diet pure. They are well aware of potato chips and candy, trust me. Vegetables aren’t as exciting anymore. However, I have held to the belief that if you restrict something too much — it will be the first thing your child goes for when out of your sight. So, on special occasions I would not concern myself if my child wanted to eat chips or cookies … but on a daily basis I would keep their snack and food choices to more healthy options.

Work hard to establish psychologically sound eating habits. That is to say, I encourage them to eat when hungry, offering healthy choices, but I avoid pushing food if they are not hungry. If they do not want to eat dinner; then so be it. I avoid the common pitfalls of “finish dinner and you can have desert” or “just eat it for me,” etc. Allow your child to become in tune with his own body and its need for nutrition. If they are not hungry — do not force it (but also do not allow them to fill up on junk before of after dinner). If my child is not hungry at dinner, I wrap her plate and put it in the refrigerator, if she is hungry later, I will offer her the dinner.

Also, avoid offering food when the child is bored or upset. All these strategies lead to unhealthy eating habits and eventually eating becomes more about emotion than nutrition. Eating should not be about getting a reward; it should not be about pleasing their parents or about soothing an upset child. It should be limited to providing nutrition. Also avoid the “special order.” This could lead to real power struggles and a nightmare at dinnertime. We all eat the same meal around here. We do not accommodate the “picky eater.” We also hold to the rule that even if you aren’t hungry at dinnertime, everyone should sit at the table and engage in the conversation.

Take the time to explain to your child in language appropriate to their age why food choices are important. Tell them that milk will give you strong bones and teeth. Tell them the meat they eat has protein and protein will give them energy. Explain how fruits and vegetables will keep them from getting sick. They will be much more likely to eat a balanced diet if they understand why it’s important. Take them shopping with you. Let them pick the apples and oranges. Get them involved with planning the menus and cooking the food. Even let them help grow vegetables. Kids love eating the vegetables they have grown themselves.

A multivitamin should be a part of your child’s daily nutrition. You may wish to speak with your pediatrician with regard to this. Check your local water supplier, too. Some towns provide fluorinated water. If yours does not, you will want their vitamin to also contain fluoride.

Finally, there is always the exception to every rule. When a child is sick, sometimes just getting fluids into the child is the priority, so if all they want all day is ginger ale and ice pops — allow it. If they are going to grandma’s for dinner and all they are going to eat are the mashed potatoes and dessert, allow it. You should be confident that their daily diet is sufficient that they can afford a day without the rules. Also, try to have you child eat something healthy before going to parties. This way when they get there, they will not be hungry and even if they do decide to indulge in the junk, you know they have gotten some nutrients in, too.

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