You've just spent the better part of your evening chopping, mixing and roasting only to be met with, "Mom, can I have a grilled cheese sandwich instead?" When your kids consistently refuse to eat anything that doesn't come in a box, even the most patient parent can start to lose her cool.
Getting our children to eat food that's actually good for them is one of parenting's ongoing challenges. As kids get older and start to demand some control over what goes in their mouths, their unwillingness to eat what and when we want them to can lead to endless mealtime battles.
But there are ways we can encourage our kids to eat healthier, sometimes without them even knowing it. All it takes is an understanding of what they really need.
One of the biggest mistakes parents make when it comes to feeding our kids is expecting them to eat what we do when we do. In truth, children's stomachs are about the size of their fist. Because their stomachs are smaller, children need to eat more frequently than adults do. They simply cannot get the necessary number of calories they need from just three meals.
That's why snacks are a must. As Dr. William Sears says in his book, The Family Nutrition Book (Little, Brown), toddlers "don't sit still for anything, even food. Snacking their way through the day is more compatible with these busy explorers' lifestyle than sitting down to a full-fledged feast." His advice? Let your kids graze. Sears suggests having a variety of foods available throughout the day, so that when children are hungry, they can serve themselves. Sears recommends using an ice-cube tray, muffin tin, or a plate with different compartments. "Place the food on an easy-to-reach table. As your toddler makes his rounds through the house, he can stop, sit down, nibble a bit, and when he's done, continue on his way."1