“I never get a good lunch because my mom’s a dietitian.”
My daughter is talking to a friend in the backseat of our car. She has gotten my attention, “What are you talking about?”
“My friends get candy and jellyrolls. I’ve never gotten a jelly roll.”
Take a deep breath. I need to prevent myself from getting hooked into a battle that I will not win.
Here is the fact: I have never sent my daughter a jelly roll. In fact, I have never eaten a jelly roll myself.
And I can argue that I have sent cookies, granola bars and other sweet bakery items, or that she should be glad she gets any food at all, but it will not help my cause. In her six-year-old eyes, a major injustice has occurred.
Feeding children is difficult because there are so many options, that we have lost unity in what foods should be part of a healthy diet. We are battling between what we want our children to eat, and what they have exposure to. Unfortunately, Dora’s face is not pasted on our heads of broccoli. So what are some strategies for navigating this food environment with children?
1. Think big picture: We want to eat mostly good food, most of the time. Non-nutritious foods are part of the real world and there is room for them as part of a healthy diet. It is a good skill to learn how to eat these foods in moderation.
2. Offer healthy choices most of the time – Research shows children need 15 to 20 exposures to a new food before they are comfortable eating it. Be patient and persistent.
3. Set an example by eating a good variety of food yourself.
4. Use peer pressure: we have all witnessed our children eat a disliked food and enjoy it when their friends are doing the same.
5. Involve your child in the preparation of meals and snacks. Learning how to prepare healthy foods will encourage eating them.
6. Avoid battles around food; try humour: “I know, Claire. Dietitian moms are the worst!”