Simple Takeaways on the Sticky Subject of Sugar

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Super Simple Online. All opinions are my own.

As we countdown to all the candy of Halloween with much anticipation by kids and often fear from parents, I want to spend the next few weeks highlighting some simple takeaways when it comes to the sticky subject of sugar.

 
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This week, I am sharing a post I previously wrote over on Super Simple Online, titled “Six Simple Takeaways on the Sticky Subject of Sugar.” While we may have fast-forwarded six months to another holiday season centered around sugar since it was published, the principles I share regarding sugar remain the same:

  1. Understand the real problem.

  2. Define healthy in your home. 

  3. Avoid labels. 

  4. Encourage pleasure. 

  5. Avoid reward. 

  6. Practice self-regulation.

If you’d like to learn more about each of these and how to handle the sticky subject of sugar in your home, visit my post:

Six Simple Takeaways on the Sticky Subject of Sugar


Then stay tuned over the next two weeks as I share more on How to Handle Halloween Candy with Kids (next week) and How to Handle the Halloween Sugar Rush (in two weeks).

If you aren’t already subscribed to my newsletter, now is the perfect time to sign up to receive once-weekly updates. As members of my community, you are the first to read insider information as well as receive updates when these and other upcoming blog posts are published. Just fill out your name and email below!

Managing Meals as a New Mom

My husband is hard-working. My mom is a natural Nana. My nearby sister-in-law has survived to share what it’s like to mother three amazing kids. Yet despite a solid support system gathering around for the birth of our third child, close family and friends are still left to figure out the innards of our kitchen.

Consider the feeding basics that are intuitive to us but likely unknown to others:

When do we offer our daughters milk versus water?

Do we give snacks whenever the girls ask or is there structure around what, when, and where food is offered?

Are there foods we can or can’t send to school in the girl's lunchboxes?

What kind of bread do we buy?

Do we have anything ready for dinner?

What happens if the girls choose not to eat what's offered?

These may seem like overly simplistic basics to even address to some. They may be too obvious or totally unnecessary to answer to others. However no matter what your family dynamic is when entering into this exciting new season with a newborn, recognize that these little nuances in each family are what make us who we are.

They establish normalcy, create ease, and maintain security, especially with young ones whose eating habits may not be as clearly established or easy to articulate as with older kids or adults. They are also the key details that redirect the stress of making meals into the more-efficient process of managing meals as a new mom-- among as many hands as you have available to help.

 
 

For this reason, I think we can best prepare ourselves, our children, and our family's generous helpers in the upcoming season by eliminating the need for others to ask us seven-hundred questions  about food/feeding (or the tendency to always wing it when they can't!) and rather equipping them with helpful info for how to handle all things meal- and snack-related on their own.

 

This post will outline how to plan ahead for managing meals as a new mom.

As shared on previous posts about the Division of Responsibility in feeding, the more you can maintain the adult's role in feeding versus the child's amidst the "newness" of having a newborn, the less stressful it will be on everyone. Use the following links and guides to help you and whomever you have helping to assume your/their role as the adult while still encouraging your child in their roles as well!


Resources on WHAT to feed

Meal Plans

If you didn't catch my post on Freezer Meals to Make Before A Baby this month, be sure to check out those meal ideas here. In the post, you will have access to a download with the breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack ideas I actually used to prep ahead some freezer meal (and snack) favorites for our family!

You can also look back to the first half of 2018 and the family meal plans I included via the thumbnails below. While these posts only share ideas for the main course (as all the sides were already shared with newsletter subscribers (become a subscriber here!), they may help you think of some recipes you might want to make (or ask a friend or family to make on your behalf!) when in a tired-of-ordering-pizza-every-night rut. Some recipes are more involved while others are ready in under 15 minutes, so scroll through to see which ones sound both tasty and practical to you and your family!

 

Snack Ideas

While I have some favorite "go-to" snacks with my kids (and for myself!) shared on the freezer meals printable (available here), below are a few older blog posts that also might help give you some ideas for healthy snack options - be it at the pool for the final push of summer or non-perishable favorites to send as your children go back to school.

 

Love it, Like it, Learning it Meals

For FAQs on Love it, Like it, Learning it and a FREE download you can use as your template to writing out what foods your child loves, likes, and is still learning (with 150 suggestions for kid-friendly foods to categorize), visit this post. Having a list of foods on hand to help others know what your kid "does and doesn't like" makes figuring out what combinations of foods to offer at meals easier on everyone while still emphasizing the importance of ongoing exposure to new, "learning it" foods!

You can also coach caretakers on how to use a Love it, Like it, Learning it approach at meal times by sharing this article on How to Feed a Toddler at Meal Times.

 

Meal Planning Templates

This postpartum, I have a calendar of our whole first month penciled in with what dinners we are making from our freezer stash, some easy, ready-made options, when I anticipate meals will be made for us, and the occasional takeout too. For breakfast and lunches, I have seven ideas penciled in that we will use on rotation each week using the templates available here, modifying as needed (but hopefully not much until I have my bearings a bit more). Having these templates filled out helps me to already have ideas for what we will eat, so in my sleep-deprived state I don't have to also think about what to make nor if we have the ingredients on hand to make these menu ideas!

 

Grocery List

I plan to rely heavily on grocery pick-up in the postpartum window. In general though, I keep a magnetic grocery list up on my fridge so I can use that as my reference when I go online to place our grocery order. While magnetic lists are not currently available (will re-order and begin shipping again after maternity leave), you can access my free grocery download using the link below.

 

Costco List

Instacart does not yet service our zip code yet, but for many regions, you could order from Costco online as well. I created this guide as a visual grocery list for my 55 items I most heavily rely on getting at Costco. I can print, circle, and send this list with my husband to reference on his way home from work when he swings into Costco or while my parents while they're in town. Either way, they know the items to look for when I request a given item (without having to call or FaceTime me every 17 seconds to ask, "Is this the ________ you buy/want?").


Resources on WHEN to feed

Daily Routine

Life needs to always remain flexible with kids, but there is something to be said for consistency and routine that makes the "newness" of seasons like having a new sibling easier for everyone to handle. That's why even if my kids aren't eating as many homemade nor well-rounded meals as our usual (during this postpartum period), I would say I care just as much (if not more!) that they are fed on as consistent of a routine as possible. I find with kids, it is easier to get "back on track" with the WHAT we feed after a season with more convenient foods than it is to reset their stomachs and appetites to a meal and snack schedule (after a season when grazing could easily become the norm!).

To help keep their meals and snacks happening around the same time each day, I use this daily routine template. This allows me to pencil in what they have from the moment they wake up through bedtime, but two sheets could also be used if you are including an infant feeding schedule with overnight bottle feeds.


Resources on WHERE to feed

At the Table

I hear parents, grandparents, and virtually all caretakers struggle with how to keep kids seated for meal times. So while these tips and tricks can be applied in a variety of places where food might be offered, the aim is that indeed we are conditioning our children to sit at the table for long enough for them to fuel their bodies until food is offered again. Rather than battle your child to "just sit still," read this article for Seven Ways to Keep Your Child Seated Through Meals (and share it with those who will be feeding your kids after baby comes too for added reinforcement!).

 

At School

Whether you have a child in Mom’s Day Out only a couple of hours a week, a preschooler in daycare full-time, or a school-aged child needing packed lunches for elementary each day, packing lunches takes an extra bit of effort and attention - especially if being packed by a caretaker who isn't used to owning this role.

To help them out with "what to pack," review these Five Secrets to Lunch Packing Success that I share over on the Super Simple blog [sponsored post]. Then, be sure to share any pertinent specifics for your child and/or their school with anyone who might be helping you pack lunches in the postpartum period. You can also download the a printable that runs through similar steps using the button below.


Resources on IF/WHETHER to eat

Family Food Rules

Handling how to have others feed our kids (when we are away/unable to) is constantly a topic of conversation and often an area of tension within families. While we might not always be able to get family members or friends to adopt our approach to what, when, or where they feed our children, something we can continue to articulate is our desire for HOW they feed our kids in terms of a pressure-free approach.

Just as you would respectfully share your approaches to discipline or sleep routines with a caregiver, consider discussing what some of your "family food rules" are before your new baby comes. Then, practice role modeling what this looks like to caregivers BEFORE baby is here with whatever meals such caregivers might be around to observe and engage in. Use this time to allow them to ask questions about What is the Division of Responsibility and How to Establish the Division of Responsibility. Furthermore, consider posting a list of feeding expectations up on the fridge for all to reference (like this 7 Steps to Feeding Success one). While this doesn't ensure that everyone will feed your child just like you would, it can help to redefine the boundaries you desire around the feeding environment.


In Summary

Remember it is just a Season

No matter what happens after a baby is born (or any time of major transition, really!), remember that children are adaptable. They will go with the flow often more easily than we as moms do and they can adjust back to healthy old habits or create new ones (when necessary) with consistency and reinforcement as things settle down. So even if mac and cheese is on the menu for the first month straight, remember there is grace in motherhood that will also cover some of the shortcomings in a season where our children might have nutritional voids or less than ideal eating habits.

If it gives you more peace of mind and helps your child to meet their daily nutritional needs better, you can also consider adding in supplements for the nutrients in food groups you know tend to be harder to reinforce and re-expose. My friends over at Feeding Littles have an excellent round-up of recommendations on Supplements for Infants and Children that might be worth reading and investing in.

Otherwise, I hope the above tools will help you to feel a bit more prepared and at peace about how to handle meals as a new mom. You got this!

Average versus Extreme Picky Eating

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Super Simple Online. As always, all opinions are my own.

Ever wondered if your child's picky eating is "normal"?

While I have worked with many families on How to Handle Picky Eating privately (through one-on-one consultations) and publicly (through blog posts and presentations), I will be the first to share:

Most picky eating is normal, but not all picky eating is average.

 
 

What I mean by this is that for most children, picky eating is as normal stage of development as toddler tantrums, sleep regressions, endlessly saying 'no' or asking 'why?', separation anxiety, and wanting to 'do it myself' as they exercise independence. As with all aspects of raising tiny humans however, some child fall into a more average pattern for these developmental milestones while others are what we may consider a bit more extreme in how they react and respond.

That's why over on the Super Simple blog this month, I share more about, What is “Normal” When it Comes to Picky Eating?

In the post (read it here), you will find a summary of what average and extreme picky eating individually are, how each normally presents, their unique impacts physically, socially, and emotionally on a child, and what the best solution for addressing each are. This way, if you find yourself asking, "Is my child's picky eating normal?," you can quickly identify what average versus extreme picky eating looks like, how each differ in their physical, emotional, and social impacts on your child, and what course of action may be most effective should your child fall into the more "average" picky eating realm or be a child with more extreme picky eating.

If you'd like to read more on this for yourself, click the button below to see the full article.

I know this will help put a lot of parent's questions and concerns at rest and/or in the direction of seeking the best-suited action plan to help a picky eater get the assistance they need to grow, thrive, and live out a healthy childhood!


For more on this topic, visit these posts:


Looking for more inspiration on how to help picky eaters?

Be sure to follow my Instagram where I share tips, tricks, and endless encouragement for raising healthy children (even if they are currently more apprehensive than adventurous)!

Milk Alternatives for Toddlers

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Kabrita. All opinions are my own.

Milk Alternatives for Toddlers

Around the time a child turns one, many parents become privy to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for milk intake in infants. However in recent years, more and more parents are coming to me with questions about if cow’s milk is still the best milk option for their young children after transitioning off of breast milk and/or infant formula.

The question of if/how to use milk alternatives for toddlers usually comes up based on a variety of vantage points, making the “right” answer unique to a family’s personal food preferences and dietary priorities.

For children who cannot consume cow's milk due to an allergy or lactose intolerance, cow's milk alternatives are a necessity. Many other children have functional digestive symptoms associated with cow's milk, while some families are simply looking for a high quality, easy to digest choice. Here, I'll highlight some important considerations when choosing cow milk alternatives for toddlers.

As always, be sure to consult your child’s primary health care provider if you have specific questions or concerns about which milk might be best for your toddler.

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Your Child’s Nutritional Requirements

The transition from infancy to toddlerhood comes with changes to how your child meets their nutritional needs. As breast milk and/or infant formula is eliminated and more table foods are introduced between years one and two of life, toddlers begin to rely more heavily on the nutrition they get from the foods they consume and less on liquid calories. This makes deciding on which milk or milk alternative to offer your child all the more important.

Parents need to consider what role milk plays in their child’s existing diet and if/how these nutritional gaps will be met (or not) through the different options for milk alternatives on the market. Many of the key nutrients that were critical in your child’s diet as an infant are still important in toddlerhood. These include:

Calories

On average, toddlers need around 1,000 calories per day. While I don’t recommend parents count their children’s calories, this can be a helpful number to keep in mind when parents consider how many calories per day their child gets from milk (or a milk alternative). Often times, toddlers are meeting more of their calorie needs from dairy than necessary. A good target for toddlers is to get two servings of dairy per day, as this helps children to meet their calorie, vitamin D, and calcium needs for growth and development without taking over the role other foods have on helping them meet their overall nutritional needs.

Fat

More so than in any other age group, toddlers need fat in their diets. So much so that 30-40% of a toddler’s caloric intake should come in the form of fat, which is just under what they relied on getting from breast milk or infant formula. A variety of fats are necessary for key functions of a child’s health and development, including our children's ability to absorb important fat-soluble vitamins from food (like vitamin D). Fat also offers a mouth feel with the foods it is found in that can help reinforce pleasure and satiety (including with kids). Opting for a milk or milk alternative that offers flavor and a positive mouth-feel by way of fat instead of in the form of added sugars, flavors, or other additives is ideal.

Protein

Protein is a major component of every cell in the body and plays a part in helping keep young kids feeling full between meals.Young children, however, often need less protein in their diets than many parents assume, with the average 1-3 year old only requiring 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day (i.e. 13 grams of protein for a 26-pound child). While this may not be a lot of protein, milk or milk alternatives can play a key role in helping toddlers meet their protein needs as they transition to table foods and adopt eating habits that include protein-rich foods. Parents should consider the amount, quality, and variety of protein their child is getting from milk- and food-based sources when evaluating which milk alternative offers adequate protein to help their child meet their daily needs.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is increasingly being known not just for its role in the development of healthy bones and teeth but also in immune health and reducing inflammation. As toddlers, our children’s need for vitamin D increases from 400 to 600 IU daily. Although some foods have been fortified with vitamin D to help boost our toddler’s intake, many toddlers struggle to get enough vitamin D from naturally-occurring or fortified food sources alone. Since cow’s milk is often a key source of vitamin D for toddlers as they transition to table foods, parents ought to consider if and how much vitamin D their child gets from non-milk-based sources in order to find a milk alternative that best fills the nutritional void for vitamin D.

Calcium

From ages 1-3, children need approximately 700 mg of calcium per day to support their growing bones, bodies, and teeth. While cow’s milk is an obvious and efficient way to help toddlers meet their calcium needs, traditional milk is not the only means for children to get enough calcium. Other foods are naturally good sources of calcium and many milk alternatives are fortified to help children on dairy-free diets to meet their calcium needs. Parents should compare the calcium content of milk alternatives when considering which one is best suited for helping their child meet and maintain their calcium needs throughout childhood.

 

With these nutritional considerations in mind, parents can more keenly compare and contrast the following milk and milk alternatives to evaluate which is nutritionally the best option for their child’s diet.

 

Milk and Milk Alternatives for Toddlers

Cow’s Milk

Nutritional Pros

Many families are already accustomed to buying and consuming cow’s milk. This makes this milk option an obvious choice for the majority of toddlers (who aren’t avoiding dairy). It is an efficient way to help children get in calcium and vitamin D, as well as to add protein and fat to their diet (assuming a full or reduced fat milk variety is used). Cow’s milk can be an economical and readily available option for families who prefer a milk choice that is convenient both in accessibility and nutritional bioavailability.

Nutritional Cons

An obvious concern with cow’s milk is that it is not suitable for children with a cow’s milk allergy or lactose intolerance, or for families who have adopted a vegan lifestyle. Also, some littles ones may experience functional symptoms related to cow’s milk consumption, such as gas, spit up, constipation or diarrhea. Nutritionally speaking, some children consume more than the recommended daily amount of cow’s milk (or dairy), which may interfere with their intake of iron-rich foods and compromise their iron status since cow’s milk lacks iron and replaces iron-rich foods in some toddler’s diets. Ethically speaking, more families are becoming concerned with the quality of conventional cow’s milk compared to some of the more premium options for organic and/or grass-fed on the market. These premium milk options may be less available and/or cost-prohibitive for many families to consume exclusively.

Bottom Line

Cow’s milk is an appropriate pick for parents who want an affordable, readily-available milk option, as long as children do not have an allergy or sensitivity.  It also helps promote the nutrients a toddler needs as their diet continues to expand to include more nutrient-rich foods. When possible, I would recommend an organic, grass-fed whole milk as the gold standard for cow’s milk.

 

Goat Milk

Nutritional Pros

Goat milk is an often overlooked alternative to cow’s milk.  Goat milk offers a nutrient-dense option to help growing children get in the calories, fat, and protein they need. For children who are sensitive to cow’s milk, goat milk may be a gentler alternative before eliminating dairy-based milk options altogether. Goat milk protein is naturally easier to digest than cow milk protein. It forms a softer, smaller curd in the digestive system (the protein clumps formed during digestion), compared to cow milk. Goat milk proteins are also digested at a closer rate to breast milk than cow’s milk, making goat milk alternatives gentle for tiny tummies and helpful at improving digestive discomfort in sensitive babies.

Nutritional Cons

Goat milk is not suitable for children with a confirmed Cow Milk Protein Allergy, as majority of children with a Cow Milk Protein Allergy also do not tolerate goat’s milk. While standard goat milk is an appropriate option for older children and families, it lacks some important vitamins and minerals for toddlers and infants, such as folic acid, iron, and vitamin D. For these children, my recommendation is to choose an appropriately fortified product, such as Kabrita goat milk formula.

Bottom Line

Goat’s milk is an appropriate pick for parents who have a child with digestive symptoms associated with cow milk (i.e. constipation, diarrhea, spit up), but not a true Cow Milk Protein Allergy. Goat milk is also a good option for families who want an easy to digest alternative to cow milk, but aren’t looking to jump immediately to a plant-based alternative. Since a fortified goat milk, like Kabrita, offers more nutritional value than plant based milk options, it may offer the calories, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals a toddler needs better than other alternatives.

 

Plant-Based Milk Alternatives

Nutritional Pros

Plant-based alternatives offer vegan milk alternatives for families who may be avoiding cow or goat milk due to dietary preferences and/or food allergies. Depending on their selection of plant-based alternatives, families will find a variety of allergen-friendly options that allow them to avoid top allergens like dairy, soy, peanuts, and/or gluten.

Nutritionally, some plant-based milks have comparable calorie, fat, and protein content to cow’s milk. It is important to note, however, that not one plant-based alternative mimics the complete nutritional profile of cow’s milk as closely as goat milk does.

Calories: Oat milk followed by rice milk have the most calories of any plant-based alternative, comparing to the calorie content of a 2% reduced fat cow’s milk. Note these calories come predominantly from carbohydrates, as neither is high in fat nor protein.

Fat: Hemp milk offers more fat than any other plant-based alternative (being comparable to whole cow’s milk), including omega 3s. Coconut milk and pea milk have the next highest fat contents being comparable to 2% reduced fat cow’s milk.

Protein: Options like soy and pea milk offer the most protein content of any plant-based alternative, being comparable with cow’s milk.

Vitamins and Minerals: Since many plant-based alternatives lack the calcium and vitamin D found in cow’s milk, fortified plant-based alternatives are important especially for the toddler population.

Nutritional Cons

Some plant-based alternatives may not be suitable for children with allergies to soy (soy milk), tree nuts (nut milk), or gluten (some oat milk). Research has shown that children may also react poorly to soy milk if a milk protein allergy or intolerance is present, making soy an unfit alternative for some children with a dairy allergy.

Nutritionally, many plant-based alternatives overall contain less calories, fat, and protein than cow’s milk, as well as less vitamin D and calcium. In order to improve the taste and mouthfeel for plant-based alternatives, many have added sweeteners and stabilizers that are best avoided (especially with toddlers).

Calories: No unsweetened, plant-based milk alternative offers comparable calories to whole cow’s milk.  

Fat: Plant-based alternatives like almond, flax, oat, and rice all have a much lower fat content, making them comparable to 1% cow’s milk. Remember fat is important for child development, especially the brain!

Protein: Plant-based alternatives like almond, flax, coconut, hemp, oat, and rice all have a lower protein content than cow’s milk, with all but oat milk having only 0-2 grams of protein per 8-ounce serving.

Vitamins and Minerals: Homemade plant-based alternatives (like almond or cashew) will not be fortified like the options available in stores. Parents should consider this when switching exclusively to homemade alternatives to ensure such vitamins and minerals are being consumed elsewhere in the diet.

Bottom Line

Plant-based milk alternatives may be an appropriate pick for families who need a milk free from common allergens like dairy, soy, peanuts, and/or gluten. If a toddler consumes enough calories, fat, and protein from other food sources, these milk alternatives may be a healthy beverage alternative. For young toddlers around one year, most plant based milks do not offer sufficient nutrients to be a healthy alternative to cow milk. If/when milk alternatives are introduced, it is important that children prefer the taste in order to promote healthy habits that will last them through adolescence and into adulthood (when their needs for many of the nutrients in cow’s milk increase). Equally, families must consider how easy to find and afford plant-based alternatives are, as some are less readily available and/or economical for a whole family to consume regularly. For plant-based alternatives that have varieties with added sweeteners, parents should select unsweetened varieties to reduce unnecessary added sugar. Using such plant-based alternatives to cook with (in place of water) is a good way to include such milk alternatives on occasion (instead of exclusively) for families who would like to integrate more plant-based options without completely replacing more traditional milks.

 

Making a Decision on Milk Alternatives for Toddlers

In closing, it is important to note that each toddler’s food intake and taste preferences differ, making there no one-size-fits-all approach to selecting a milk alternative for families. Instead, each parent should consider their child’s diet, lifestyle, and nutritional needs for how a milk or milk alternative helps to support their overall growth and development.

While it can be wonderful for our food industry to expand our options to more products including milk alternatives, it is important for parents to consider what elements of their child’s nutritional needs are being met by milk versus food alone. After factoring in any potential allergies or sensitivities, a family’s first consideration when switching from cow’s milk should be to select a milk alternative that is nutritional suitable and sustainable to meet their growing toddler’s nutritional needs. Most often, this comes in the form of a fortified beverage that contains calories, fat, protein, and vitamins and minerals in an amount complementary to what the child already consumes.

Hopefully this review has helped provide you with a more comprehensive understanding of the pros, cons, and other considerations for choosing a milk or milk alternative for your toddler!

 

Thank you to Kabrita for sponsoring this review of milk alternatives for toddlers; if you'd like to learn more about their goat milk formula, click here.

How to Make One Meal for the Whole Family

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Super Simple Online. As always, all opinions are my own.

If you find yourself short-order cooking and amidst the stressful dynamics of making everyone a separate meal, you need to tune in to today's post.

Over on the Super Silly blog, I share how to How to Make One Meal for the Whole Family. With five considerations to avoid short-order cooking or fights over the food that is offered, this post will walk you through some of the steps to establishing set a new precedence at family meals. These act as a framework to help you begin serving one meal for the whole family.

I am confident that these five steps can help families find newfound freedom with what to offer at meal times, making the shared experience at the table a happy and healthy one! Which one will you start implementing tonight?


For more on this topic, visit these posts:


How to Make One Meal for the Whole Family Menu Ideas

I spent the first half of 2018 sharing family-friendly meal plans on the Veggies & Virtue blog. I also sent bonus content each week to subscribers on serving these up to more apprehensive of eaters, using my "Love it, Like it, Learning it approach to deciding "what to offer" so that everyone has something at the table they enjoy! To join the thousands of mamas who receive this newsletter each week, join here!

Otherwise, review the menus for Winter and Spring by clicking on the thumbnails below. You will find a variety of ideas of family-friendly meal ideas, all of which can be offered as one meal for the whole family!

Looking for more inspiration on how to offer one meal to the whole family?

Be sure to follow #onemealtwoways each week on my Instagram! With each, you will see how one meal is offered two ways for my child and my preferences and on each of our plates!

The Most FAQs of BLW

This post is sponsored by Regalo. Thank you for the Regalo Easy Diner Hook On High Chair and for the opportunity to share this information with my audience. Please note, this post also contains affiliate links. As always, all opinions are my own.

It was almost exactly a year ago that I was in my kitchen starting Baby Led Weaning (BLW) with my second daughter. Having used BLW with my first daughter as well, I had a growing interest in how this approach to infant feeding had evolved into one that more and more families in the States are starting to adopt as well.

That's why when my best friend scheduled a visit to Texas right at her daughter's 6-month milestone, I was eager to know if and how they would be introducing solids. As their visit got closer, it was a delight to know my friend wanted to initiate BLW while they were here. What a treat for me to help her with!

This post includes many of the FAQs that came up both with my friend and as submitted by many fellow moms. I hope the content below will be a helpful starting place when it comes to starting solids with BLW - both at home and when away.

 
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Just because my child is 6 months old, can I assume they are ready to start solids?

Although most organizations recommend starting solids at or around 6 months (as discussed in an article shared here), there are other considerations to keep in mind before jumping into BLW.

When an infant is spoon fed purees, some parents may hastily assume their infant can already handle food since it requires less coordination of their gross, oral, and fine motor skills to be spoon-fed purees versus self-feed soft table foods.

Some signs of readiness that matter particularly with BLW, however, are for an infant to show the developmental signs of readiness to self-feed (as shared in a post here and here). When an infant shows adequate head control, core strength, the ability to open their mouths to food, loss of tongue thrust, and the fine motor skills necessary to self feed, a parent can safely and effectively move forward with BLW. Ensuring these developmental milestones have been met before starting solids allows the infant to focus more on exploring the food and self-manipulating it towards their mouth, as well as the actual act of eating.

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When traveling, can I just hold my infant in my lap to feed them? I would prefer not to worry about toting along a high chair.

For ease's sake, this is an understandable question most parents ask.

Without wanting to pack even a traditional chair-topper "portable" high chair, it can be tempting to feed your infant from your lap. This is not recommended, however, for a few reasons. One, it is important that your child is in a safe and secure location. Part of the autonomy developed with BLW is your child's ability to self-feed (in a safe way). Your securing them into a high chair allows them to lead this process, regulate the pace of feeding, and gain coordination in doing so from a seat.

Further, it is important that you are always able to see your child's face as they eat. In order to ensure safe feeding practices and prevent choking, parents need to be able to supervise their child. Attempting to do so with an infant seated in your lap, most often facing outward with their back to you, would be both awkward and ineffective. Lastly, the more support you can provide your child while eating the better (that goes for all ages!). Offering an adequate back rest, base, and ideally spot for feet allows your child to have the reinforcement they need to successfully self-feed.

For a safe, affordable, and compact option, the Easy Diner Portable Hook On Chair satisfies the needs parents have while traveling. It comes in a bag where the chair easily breaks down and lies flat, slim enough to slide into even that outer zipper area of a suitcase. The chair then reassembles easily so that you can securely attach it to any table or counter (assuming there is no lip underneath). We used our Hook On Chair often when traveling with littles and appreciated how easy this set-up worked when having to pack all the items needed for infants. Possibly what I appreciate most though is that this Hook On Chair is not exclusive to travel.

Even with a more traditional high chair in our home, I can't imagine our infant years with each child not having a Hook On Chair. Similar to how the Learning Tower is a mainstay at our island, hook on chairs were their vehicle for "at the counter" engagement until they became big enough to stand at a learning tower like stool. This made me more pleased with my purchasing this for travel, as I was able to extend its life at home on the counter, to complement the traditional (non-portable) high chair that stayed table side.

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Besides making sure my child is safely seated, how can I prevent them from choking? It seriously freaks me out.

One of the best things parents can do prior to starting BLW is to educate themselves.

Many parents hesitate to allow their child to self-feed through a BLW approach out of fear for their child choking. While this is a valid concern and one every parent should heed with caution, it is also one that can most often be minimized with a proper understanding of what BLW is, when to start, what foods to include plus which foods to avoid, and how to prevent choking. Often, parents confuse choking with gagging though. To better understand this question and others, I shared a post on here that highlights how parents need to:

  • Avoid choking hazards
  • Offer safe finger foods
  • Minimize distractions while eating
  • Understand what gagging in infancy really is(includes a video of what to look for!)
  • Recognize choking early
  • Educate caretakers on CPR readiness
  • Run a finger swipe test when a meal is finished

A few of my other favorite resources for parents to consider in order to better familiarize themselves with BLW and the associated safety precautions include this flagship BLW book as well as a newly released book called, Born to Eat. A couple of online infant feeding classes specific to BLW that I also highly recommend are those by Registered Dietitians Megan McNamee at Feeding Littles and Jessica Coll of JessicaColl.com.

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What are some of the best foods to start BLW with?

The fun thing about BLW is the options of what to offer your infant are truly endless. When first starting out though, there are a few foods that most feeding experts and pediatric dietitians particularly prefer. These include those that are nutrient-dense and offer nutritional benefits to complement a diet of predominantly breastmilk and/or formula. Some great first foods include:

  • Avocado: Raw; cut into 1/8 lengthwise to offer long strips
  • Baked sweet potatoes: Baked whole; cut into 1/8 lengthwise to offer long strips. May cut strips in half so they are a fist-and-a-half long.
  • Eggs: Scramble into pieces large enough for infant to hold in their fist or boil to make an egg salad they can scoop with their fingers into their mouths.
  • Yogurt: Choose a whole milk, plain flavored yogurt. Don't fall for "Yo-Baby" as an ideal choice for infants. Give them a small, safe spoon to use or allow them to use their fingers to self-scoop.
  • French Toast: Using breastmilk and eggs, soak whole grain bread (free from whole nuts or seeds on the crust). Cook until golden brown and then cut into 2 inch strips. For additional flavor, you may also add other items into the milk and egg mixture, including flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, applesauce and/or plain, canned pumpkin.
  • Peanut Butter: Using the yogurt or french toast ideas from above, introduce peanut butter by swirling it in until well mixed with yogurt. Or, thinly smear onto a warm finger-like strip of french toast.
  • Steak: Cooked medium to medium well so it is juicy and tender. Cut into fist-and-a-half long strips. Do not add any salt-containing seasonings or marinades; may season with any other herbs or spices, however.

For more ideas on how to offer fruits and vegetables for BLW (including specific instructions for how to cut and cook), check out the post I shared here.

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How do I know if a food is safe to offer my baby?

In general, there are three rules of thumb parents starting BLW should know.

One, offer a "finger-like" strip of food. More specifically, give your child strips of food that are about one-and-a-half lengths of their fist. Visually, this means that even with a good grasp on the food item, your child can still have some sticking out to eat from. This helps your child to learn how much they can safely handle in their mouth at one time. This also gives parents a safe target for the most appropriate shape of foods to offer children ages 6-8 months old, before their pincer grasp develops (closer to 9 months of age).

Two, do the "smoosh test" (my technical term here). If you are ever in doubt about if a food may or may not be safe for infant self-feeding, press it firmly between your pointer finger and thumb. Similar to how a ripe avocado would "smoosh" when pressed in this way, a safe food should be soft enough should do the same. This allows infants, even without teeth, to firmly gum their foods in a way that smooshes them down to an almost pureed like texture.

Three, avoid foods that could break off easily into small pieces. Such foods may create a small choking hazard that could block baby's airway. Such foods often include raw fruits and vegetables that are hard, crunchy, or overly firm (think carrots, apples, raw broccoli and cauliflower). For any of these foods, find other ways to serve them either cooked (to a consistency that meets the smoosh test) or finely chopped and added into another food item (like muffins, pancakes, sauces, etc.).


Are there any foods I need to avoid all together with BLW?

In short, yes. While there are some obvious foods, such as those that are choking hazards, there are also ingredients that are best avoided in infancy. In a post I shared here, the following foods are best avoided: added salt, added sugar, and choking hazards. The best foods to encourage are those that include iron, zinc, vitamin D, and fats, especially omega 3s.


What do I do if the food feels too slippery for my infant to pick up on their own?

With BLW, one of the best known tricks for this is to roll any slippery food item (like mango) in almond meal or oat cereal (you can also use infant rice cereal). This will cut down on how slippery the item is while also giving a little nutritional boost to whatever makes it into their mouth.

One reality to learn how to embrace in this season though is that of messes. Particularly with BLW, it is messy! The self-exploration of foods at this age will end up all over. That isn't something to try to tame or discourage though. Infants ability to explore new foods, textures, and feelings in both their mouths and hands (and likely hair!) gives them valuable experiences to store when learning new foods. Instead, find things that make your life easier like bibs that actually stay on (this one and this one are two of my faves), a splat mat (or old bedsheet!) to catch what falls, as well as a sustainable system for cleaning up after your messy kid.

The removable insert in the Regalo Easy Diner Hook On Chair is an ingenius addition to this portable high chair. Unlike some of the other hook on chairs we have used or seen, this allows parents to remove the main insert on the chair where food may have fallen and made a mess. While the straps and chair itself will still need a nice wipe down after each meal, I appreciate how I could remove this piece of the chair without completing disassembling and washing the whole thing.

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Do I need to space out foods or use the "wait rule?" My child does not have a family history of food allergies.

Research shows that parents with children who are not at increased risk for food allergies do not need to wait 3-7 days between the introduction of different foods. For families with a history of food allergies, speak with your pediatrician about what the preferred approach is and how much time they suggest you take between introducing new foods. Otherwise, the more foods and flavors you can introduce early on, the more likely you are to spur your infant on as an adventurous eater.

For families who find themselves in the kitchen and/or cooking often, this is another one of the reasons I love and encourage Hook On Chairs at the counter. Having your young child at a safe and yet close distance as you cook with you affords a naturally opportunity to get kids in the kitchen from infancy onward. It also reminds parents that starting your infant on solids isn't so much about the calculated effort of what single ingredient food to offer and when, but rather engaging them in the foods, flavors, and feelings that a variety of foods offers them at even an early age.

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Is there a feeding schedule I should follow?

When introducing solids, most experts recommend that you start offering foods at one meal a day and gradually increase the frequency for when complementary foods are offered until your child begins to join in on three main meals as well as 2-3 daily snacks. This develops over 4-6 months however, from the time solids are introduced until 10-12 months when your child begins to get a better grasp on self-feeding (literally). Follow your child's lead as they begin to show more of an interest in food and ability to self-feed. Then you can begin to include them in more family meals and snacks to support their growing needs.

The key here to remember is that whatever you offer your infant is intended to be complimentary. Starting BLW does not replace breastmilk nor formula, but rather is intended to help compliment it by adding important nutrients, flavors, and textures to your child's growing diet.

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The Big Picture of BLW

Transitioning your infant to more of a schedule for WHEN to serve meals and snacks, while also factoring in WHAT foods you offer them and WHERE you will serve them (like in a Hook On Chair) begins to set the stage for any new parent to adopt the Division of Responsibility in feeding.

As the most highly recommended feeding approach to use with children of all ages, I respect how Baby Led Weaning equips parents early on in what their role is with the Division of Responsibility in feeding while also respecting their child's role - even in infancy. The Division of Responsibility is something that is sorely missed in most infant education materials and often goes unheard of until later on when parents may begin to struggle with signs of picky eating. Instead, practicing this approach with your child from an early age makes maintaining a Division of Responsibility in your home a more natural transition when it comes time to feeding a toddler.

For this reason and all the answers we worked through above, I am so grateful to have gotten my best friend "hooked" on BLW as well as the Regalo Easy Diner Hook On Chair. Being from a family I know loves to cook and travel, I know my best friend's daughter could use this as a portable way to engage in meals, snacks, and the cooking process for years to come!

A special thanks to Regalo for this opportunity to share some of the FAQs for BLW, as well as for providing us with the perfect portable seat for my best friend's 6-month old to use during their visit. A special shout out to both Baby Tay-Tay and her mom, as well. You both did such a great job starting BLW in a safe and enjoyable way. Thank you for letting me be a part of your feeding journey!

How Much Protein Does My Preschooler Need?

One of the major requests I hear when it comes to "what to pack for lunch" stems from parents (and kids!) wanting ways to pack enough protein without always defaulting to a deli sandwiches or meat (which many kids consider too stringy).

What many parents don't realize though is how much protein their kids actually need each day. Would you believe it's not that much (by most adults standards)?

That's why this post will address not only the amount of protein children need, but also how easy it is to get the recommended amount through easy-to-include items that aren't sandwiches or straight meat. This post will also touch on another key nutrient parents need to pay just as much (if not more!) attention to when packing a nutritionally well-balanced lunchbox!


The timing of school's meals and snacks are becoming more and more concerning to parents. Especially in elementary school and thereafter, parents recognize that their kids may have large gaps between when breakfast is offered at home, lunch is given at school, and snacks after school can even be offered.

As we look at little kids appetites and intakes, the timing of meals and snacks becomes even more important. With smaller stomachs, young kids can't "fill up" the same way their older sibling or later teenage self might do. Instead, they rely on regularly spaced meals and snacks plus an age-appropriate offering of protein, fat, and carbohydrates to sustain their energy levels and meet their nutrient needs.

While fruits and veggies are vital to each kid's nutritional health and well being, the fiber from them alone won't keep kids as full as fat or protein will. So let's review what kids need from a nutritional standpoint with protein and fat and then address some bologna-free options for how to get in protein and fat at lunch time.

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How much protein does my child need?

Most parents assume "a lot." The reality is though, it isn't as much as we assume. That's why I want to give you a bit more info on the nitty gritty math behind it so you can feel more comfortable calculating the average amounts that are adequate for your child.

Calculating Protein Needs (in grams)

The Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) for protein needs in kids is 1.1 g/kg/day for 1-3 year olds and 0.95 g/kg/day in 4-13 year olds. Since we don't use the metric system in the US, this equates to roughly 0.5 g/lb/day in 1-3 year olds and 0.43 g/lb/day in 4-13 year olds.

Multiply this amount of protein by your child's weight, and you get the average amount of protein they need to meet their protein needs. For a 26-pound two year old, this would be 13 grams of protein per day. For a 37-pound four year old, this would be 16 grams of protein per day.

If you divide that up between three meals and two snacks each day, that's about 3 g of protein per meal or snack (which is less than a single scrambled egg, cheese stick, or 8-oz glass of milk!).

Calculating Protein Needs (with an acceptable range)

Since no child, especially picky eaters, eats a predictable and consistent amount from day to day, another way to look at protein needs is by considering an acceptable range, known as Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (or AMDR). This range of AMDR's for "macronutrients" (protein, fat, and carbs) helps give parents the peace of mind over how much of their child's diet should be made up of that macronutrient.

In the case of protein, children ages 1-3 years old have a AMDR of 5-20%. This means of all the calories your child eats in a day, 5-20% of them should be in the form of protein. So what does this equate to? For an average toddler (ages 1-3), they need an average of 1,200 calories a day. That means an appropriate range for their protein intake would be 15-60 grams of protein per day (based off of 4 calories/gram of protein)

 

How much fat does my child need?

One of the reasons I even share about the AMDRs above is to show the relative percentage of protein young children need compared to fat.

In working with several families, I know many parents are hyper focused on getting their child's protein needs met. However, very few parents realize that their children need over twice the amount of fat per day that they do protein.

Let's look at the calculations again, this time in terms of a child's fat AMDRs.

Calculating Fat Needs (with an acceptable range)

Children ages 1-3 years old have a AMDR for fat of 30-40%. This  means that for an average toddler (ages 1-3) who needs an average of 1,200 calories a day, they need 40-53 grams of fat per day (based off of 9 calories/gram of fat).

 

What exactly does this look like?

Now that you have learned how to do the math for how much protein and fat your child needs each day, you are probably wondering how the grams of protein and fat translate to real life?

Great question. That's where we get to talking about "servings," and how many "servings per day" it usually takes for a child to meet their nutritional needs. For an average toddler eating 1,200 calories per day, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises the following number of servings for each food group:

  • Fruits: 1 cup
  • Veggies: 1.5 cups
  • Grains: 4 ounces
  • Protein: 3 ounces
  • Dairy: 2.5 cups
 How much protein does my toddler need each day?
 

Since ounces and cups still aren't as straight-forward as seeing what an actual kid eats, there are some great resources available to show you what a serving of fruits, veggies, grains, meat, and dairy actually looks like this one:

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What are some real life examples?

For some help putting this all into practice, here are 10 simple examples of ways to offer proteins and fat at lunch -- no sandwiches nor sweat required! A summary of these options are included at the bottom of this post.

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Edamame packs 5 grams of protein per 1/4 cup!

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Build Your Own Nachos with bean based chips + one cheese slice pack 8 grams of protein!

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A 1.5-ounce skinless chicken leg + 1/4 cup of quinoa salad packs 12 grams of protein! 

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1/4 cup of beans + 2 tablespoons of green peas packs 5 grams of protein! 

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A fruit and nut bar packs 6 grams of protein! 

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1-ounce of smoked salmon packs 7 grams of protein! 

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1/2-ounce of uncured salami pieces + 1/2-ounce cheese stick + 1/4 cup of hummus packs 12 grams of protein! 

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1/4 of a high protein waffles pack 5 grams of protein!  

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1/2 cup of Greek yogurt packs 11 grams of protein!

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One slice of smashed avocado and chickpea toast packs 6 grams of protein!

 

Summary

For any of you skimmers out there, here is what you need to remember from this post:

  1. Kids ages 1-3 need 5-20% of their diets made up of protein. This equals an average of 0.5 grams protein per pound of body weight (so a 26 pound two year old needs 13 grams protein).
  2. Kids ages 1-3 need 30-40% of their diets made up of fat. This equals an average of 40-50 grams fat per day.
  3. Kids can get protein from a variety of foods including both plant- and animal-based options. Some kid-friendly lunchbox ideas include: edamame, cheese, chicken, quinoa, beans, green peas, fruit and nut bars, smoked salmon, uncured meats, hummus, breakfast for lunch, yogurt, and sandwiches.
  4. Kids can get fat from a variety of foods including both plant- and animal-based options too. Whenever possible, focus on plant-based fats or those that are rich in omegas (like those found in salmon, walnuts, tuna, and hemp and chia seeds).
  5. Mix up what types and amounts of proteins and fats you offer your children each day! This not only helps prevent food jags and picky eating, but also promotes variety to help your kids get the nutrition they need.
 

Want more tips on how to pack a lunchbox? Grab the FREE printable below.

How to Make Meal Times More Peaceful with Kids

Creating more peaceful family meal times in just three steps

Written as a collaboration with Australian family dietitian Kate Wengier of Foost.

 

Family mealtimes (where at least one adult eats with the children) is one the most powerful things you can do to help your children become adventurous and colorful eaters (AKA less fussy with food!). Family mealtimes not only help kids nutritionally but also socially and academically!

By allowing children as young as two years of age to serve themselves and choose what they put on their plates, you empower them to have trust in their own abilities to self-select and self-regulate their appetite, hunger, and fullness. In giving them this newfound sense of control over if/whether and how much they eat, family meals can be a winning set-up for feeding kids, including your pickiest of eaters.

But how do you get children both to the table AND to stop squirmy and complaining?

This post provides three steps for more peaceful meal times:

  1. Create a before the table routine (transition period)

  2. Manage your own exceptions at the table

  3. Have a few table 'rules' 


 
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STEP 1: Create a before table routine (transition period)

For older children, give a 10 and 5 minute warning before meal time. This allows them to wrap up their homework or activity. If they are not engaged in something at the time of this heads up, invite them into the kitchen to help prepare the final aspects of the meal. 

For younger children, they may already be at your ankles asking when dinner will be ready. To help with this, get them engaged in getting the meal ready but do not seat them at the table in advance. If your child struggles to sit at the table through a meal, it is better to engage them in other ways like practicing life skills such as carrying items to the table, placing napkins at each spot, or adding spoons for a family style meal while you get the meal on the table. The five minutes spent engaging them in setting out the food may be the only five minutes they will stay seated for a meal, so use that time wisely and reserve it for once food has already been served.

For kids of all ages, especially those who may be more apprehensive to new foods (i.e. "picky"), offer them sensory play before a meal. While "working up an appetite" is always good with getting kids hungry for a meal, waking up their senses prior to sitting them down to eat a meal may also help improve if/whether and how much they eat. Having simple sensory items like a bin of rice, dry beans, cornmeal, or just water with a few scoops, funnels, or toys can further get them ready for a meal. While a large tub works well for this, see Ashley's favorite DIY sensory table here.

 

STEP 2: Manage expectations

Be clear about expectations. Don't feel bad saying that meals are not only about eating but also about togetherness. Tell them you expect them to join their siblings and/or family for meals whether they choose to eat or not. Then, be sure they are also well aware of the expectations after meals. If they get up from the table, the meal is over. If they get hungry, they will need to wait until the next planned meal or snack. This helps them to learn the cause and effect of listening to actual cues of hunger and fullness, without getting the easy out to just have snacks or graze more later after they chose to prematurely get up from the table. Then stick to these, calmly and yet confidently at meal times. This is all part of establishing a Division of Responsibility with feeding and creating a successful feeding environment.

Be realistic about how long they should stay seated. Most kids can handle 2-5 minutes seated at the table per year of life. If it is a meal they're not into, it's usually on the lower end and vice versa with a meal they are enjoying, they will usually stay a bit longer. So for a two year old, expect 5-10 minutes as an age appropriate amount of time they can sit at the table. For more tips on how to keep your kiddo seated at the table, visit this post.

Manage your own expectations. If you have planned a family meal that you know includes at least 1-2 items your child tends to prefer, then be at peace with whatever amount of food they choose to eat (if any). Don't expect your child will consistently eat those foods nor try a bit of everything offered. Instead, rest assured that you have done your job by the time the meal is served. You are then helping your child do their job by fostering a feeding environment that allows them to determine if/whether and how much they eat. You can learn more about how to use the "Love it, Like it, Learning it," approach here.

 

STEP 3: Have a few table 'rules'

You don't have to eat but you come to the table and sit with us. As shared above, make sure your child(ren) understands that family meals are about more than just the food. Teach them to enjoy the social experience of a shared meal, even if they choose not to eat or express very little appetite.

Don't be rude to food. This is something that you want to teach your children while they are young and in the comfort of your own home, so that as they get older and out into other food settings, they remain polite and respectful -- even when offered meals they may not be big fans of.

We don't use the words, "I don't like it" in our family. It is completely normal and age-appropriate for children to not prefer every food we put in front of them. Families need to change their language though when it comes to avoiding such foods. Instead of allowing your child to use "I don't like it" for any item they choose not to eat, train your family to change their language to "I am still learning it." With this, you open up a whole host of opportunities to help you child learn to like this new or non-preferred food.

Turn the screen off. Distractions at meal times are not only takes away from family time, but also have been shown to create less healthful food choices and take attention off of if/whether and how much they eat. Encouraging mindfulness in eating at an early age is an important feeding skill to empower them with so that they learn to pay attention as they eat, listen to their bodies, and then regulate appropriately for their appetite (or lack thereof). So make family mealtimes a time to practice mindful eating and to enjoy each other's company. Turn off the TV and pop mobile phones away. Instead, find out what fun things happened that day. Did something exciting or funny happen? Did they help anyone today? Did anything sad happen? 

Create a pressure free zone. One of the underlying principles to the Division of Responsibility is to create a positive feeding environment -- meaning it is pressure free. part of that is knowing when you should or shouldn't say something about if/whether and how much your child may be eating. If you find yourself tempted to pressure or prompt your child to eat a certain food or amount, stop yourself. It is better to say nothing than to speak up in a way that creates unintentional but perceived pressure on your child.

Try serving meals family style. Rather than pre-serving meals on plates, pop the meal in the middle of the table and let the kids serve themselves. Give them the tongs, they will love it! This is great for them taking responsibility in their own eating but also good for fine motor skills. Where possible, deconstructing the meals can help too. Think, un-tossed salads with dressing on the side, putting pasta noodles with the sauce served separately on the side, or build your own tacos to make meals more appealing for kids.

Eat with your children. This doesn’t have to be the whole family, but try and have one adult eating with the kids. Although this can be hard for some families at dinner time due to late working hours, you could try having a half dinner with the kids and eating the other half later when your spouse is home. Breakfast or weekends are other great opportunities to try and get the whole family at the table


Here's to More Pleasant Meal Times!

Try and follow these three steps for creating happier, family mealtimes. Let us know on social media @veggiesandvirtue and @foost.au what worked for you!

 

To happy, colorful eating,

Ashley and Kate