How to dine out with a two year old

We went out to eat the other night, and had the most successful time of it that we’ve had in a while. I think a few things went just right for that to happen. Here are the things that facilitated an enjoyable evening out with our toddler, although I make no garuantees that these tips will be successful for everyone ,every time.

1. Know your child. Does she get crabby after 5 pm? Go out before then. Does she eschew meat? Don’t go to a burger joint. Does she like to watch people? Go someplace on the busy side. You get the point.

2. Prepare. Look at menus on line before going out, and decide what you will order for your child. If possible, decide what you will eat, too.  This expedites the ordering process, especially if you’re indecisive about what to order at restaurants.

3. Prepare your child. I think this is the key thing that helped us this time we went out. I repeated to Sweet Potato before we left home, while in the car, while getting out of the car and right after sitting down at the restaurant, “we are going to eat a meal together and enjoy each other’s company. We are not going to get out of our chairs until it’s time to leave.” The repetition of the preparation phrase seemed to stick, and she didn’t try to get out of her chair.

4. Bring distractions. Bring a book, a small (quiet) toy, or coloring supplies for your child to play with before her meal comes. It’s also good to have some questions ready, i.e. what color is the table cloth? How many people are at that table in the corner?  Who did you play with today?

5. Order early. This goes with #2. When your server comes to get your drink order, go ahead and order your child’s food, and ask for it to be sent out right away. If you already know what you want, you can order yours too, although you don’t want to rush the experience too much, right? Otherwise you’d be at McDonald’s.

6. Compromise. I would not normally be okay with my child eating only french fries for supper, but if that’s all she’ll eat at a restaurant, I’ll let her. Her diet is generally very healthy, so one meal that is nutrient deficient is not going to hurt her. The only exception to this would be if you’re eating out several times a week all the time. But really- who does that with a two year old?

I hope you find these helpful for your next time out with kiddos.  Veteran moms- do you have any other tips?

Self-fulfilling prophecies

I’ve noticed that Sweet Potato rarely eats meat. I try to give her a little piece every time we eat meat, but I can’t remember the last time I saw her eat chicken, beef or sausage. Last week we had talapia, and she was brave enough to try it, but promptly spit it out. (I told her “you just haven’t tried it enough times yet,” and felt good about remembering that line.) Now I’m beginning to wonder how much I’ve talked about her distaste for meat in front of her. And how much of this talk is she internalizing and then acting out? Is her little brain thinking “Mama says I don’t like meat, so I’m not going to eat that chicken.”?  Do we, as American parents, sabatoge our own efforts to get our children to eat good food by reminding them that they “don’t like” something?

Just in case, I’ve decided to stop talking about Sweet Potatoe’s dislikes in front of her. If I’m going to talk about her food preferences, it’s going to be to brag about what she does eat, and how she is adventurous and brave about new foods, even if that stretches the truth a bit.  If Sweet Potato is going to fulfill one of my prophecies, I want it to be a good one.

Now for some gratuitous photos.

Baker in Training

Chip off the Old Block

 

I love Brussels sprouts!!

What I ate at our meal. I had to take a picture because it was really pretty, and particularly healthy.

 

What Sweet Potato started with (except that she had already eaten her strawberries)

What Sweet Potato started with (except that she had already eaten her strawberries)

 

Isn't Mama proud?

At meal’s end. When comparing these photos, it becomes clear that healthy food brings joy.

This was the first time she had eaten her entire slice of quiche in several months.  I was elated! I also discovered that she’ll eat Brussels sprouts if they’re quartered, but not if they’re halved. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make the difference.

Interpreting food refusal

Since Sweet Potato’s unexpected acceptance of cheese and eggs, she has continued to (usually) turn up her nose at these foods.  She even occasionally refuses pancakes and raisins.  I had been wondering how a child who normally loves pancakes will all of a sudden decide she doesn’t want one, and then it struck me.  Who of us doesn’t go through a phase of liking a food, and then a phase when we’re not in the mood for it? Especially if we’ve eaten that food every day for 3 or 4 days? Of course Sweet Potato is sick of pancakes by the fourth day; so am I! And a child learning to talk can’t tell me “Mama, I like pancakes, but I’m just not in the mood today.” I suspect most toddlers can’t put that concept into words either, hence my friends’ comments that their child who liked macaroni and cheese yesterday is today saying that it’s “yucky.”

In a book I read recently (I can’t remember whether it was French Kids Eat Everything or Bringing up Bebe), the author stated that adults will encourage kids to try a food, and if the child says that they “don’t like it,” the adult says “Oh well- you just haven’t tasted it enough times yet.”  Instead of getting riled up, they accept the statement, but don’t expect it to define their child’s taste for the rest of his life. How freeing!

So, as I continue to feed Sweet Potato, and introduce new foods to her, I’m going to take these attitudes. If she refuses food that she has previously liked, she’s just not in the mood today. If she tries something once and dislikes it, she just hasn’t tasted it enough times yet. I’ll keep offering new foods. One day she’ll come around.

Ten things I wish I had known

aka “Words of wisdom for weaning”

1. Take a deep breath. Relax. Nothing you do out of love regarding food/feeding at this point is going to scar your baby for life. It’s okay!

2. If you decide to make your own baby food, do so with the knowledge that much if not most of it is going to be thrown away rather than consumed, and with the attitude that that’s okay. If you can’t take that attitude, you may want to rethink making the food.

3. If you “cave” and buy baby food, even the non-organic Gerber food, that’s okay, too. It’s actually rather liberating. There are good options for pre-made baby food out there, and you can still teach your child to like good wholesome food. It’s also very convenient, and you need a little convenience once in a while.

4. Save some effort and use a food mill to puree some of what the family is eating. Why spend extra time making something for baby if you don’t have to?

5. If baby refuses a food, try again later. Later could mean tomorrow, in a few days or even a few weeks.  If you forget to introduce the food again for a few months, that’s okay too. It may even work better than giving it again right away.

6. Don’t feed your baby rice cereal unless it is very thin. And if you’re waiting until your baby is 6 months before trying it, she probably doesn’t need it to be very thin, so you may want to just use a different cereal. Believe me, you do not want a painfully constipated baby.

7. Work on introducing a cup or bottle. This is especially for breast-fed babies. I don’t think it matters much whether you pick a bottle, sippy or open cup, but your child will need extra fluid as she nurses less. Make acceptance of your chosen vessel a priority to avoid a dehydrated, constipated child.

8. Children acquire new skills at different rates. Just because your friend’s son can hold and appropriately use a spoon at one year doesn’t mean yours will. It’s okay.

9. Plan on sleeves and shirts getting dirty. If you don’t think you can mentally handle this, strip the kid down before meal times, and hose her off after she eats. Or just think of messy meals as an opportunity to change your kiddo into a different, but equally cute outfit.

10. As American women, we tend to over-analyze everything. Just remember that women have been having babies with no idea how exactly to do any of this stuff for thousands of years, and yet the human race has managed to survive and thrive. Also, your child will have no recollection of any of this anyway. I think God knew we were going to make some stupid mistakes, and this way our kids won’t be able to bring them up ad nauseam for the rest of our lives. Relax and enjoy this phase. It’s going to be okay!

What about you other moms? What do you wish you had known when you were starting your child on his or her food journey?

The power of words

Sweet Potato is really learning to talk now. She knows several letters and numbers, the names of a few of her friends, several animals, and of course foods!  She had never been a fan of cheese, but one night she was sitting in her high chair waiting for dinner with shredded cheese also waiting for dinner in front of her.  I was finishing getting the chili and cornbread together when I heard Sweet Potato say “cheese!”, and thought What the heck? Just because she hasn’t eaten it before doesn’t mean she won’t eat it tonight.  So I walked over, put a small amount of cheese on her plate and proceded to be surprised by how much cheese she ate that night.

Yesterday she did it again. I gave her a fried egg at breakfast, and she ate it saying “egg! Num-ee!” even though she hasn’t deigned to eat eggs in months.

I think part of both of these food acceptance experiences can be attributed to language.  Sweet Potato is so excited about knowing the words for things and being able to say them and communicate, that she was excited to eat the foods she was talking about.  I hope she continues to try and like more foods as she learns to say the words for them.

Small victories

They say that if you keep offering your child a food, she’ll eventually eat it. I can testify that this is true! Sweet Potato has never been much of one for broccoli- at least not the florets. She’d nibble on the stems, but that was about it. But I make a point to serve her florets along with the stems, and she has started eating them!  She even went for them first when I made her a quick lunch of broccoli, chick peas and mini penne.

Another food that she wouldn’t eat (inexplicably) was raspberries.  She’d eat blackberries, and loves strawberries, but consistently turned up her nose at raspberries. But one day when I was eating them in the kitchen, she was grumpy/ hungry, so I gave her one. She ate it and wanted another. She ate as many as I would give her. How about that? Maybe the trick is not only to offer the food multiple times, but to eat it yourself, while not offering your child anything. Let your child’s covetous nature work in her favor.

Pickiness begins

A few weeks ago, now, Sweet Potato started turning up her nose at some foods that I know she likes. This seems to have only gotten worse. Let me give a few examples.

This week I made a casserole using roasted veggies on her Like list- sweet potato (obviously!), cauliflower, and to a lesser extent sweet peppers.  Granted, this recipe was fairly spicy, but she didn’t touch it! And Hubby and I thought it was delicious!

Then, this weekend we were in Lancaster, PA for the Bird in Hand half marathon.  I decided to sign our family up for the all-you-can-eat pasta dinner, but SP ate little of her pasta, none of her meatballs, and an entire  bread stick. I have been worrying lately that she isn’t getting enough protein.

eating like a big girl

Can you say “carb lover?”

Tonight for supper we had the leftovers of a cheesy chicken and rice casserole. Sweet Potato likes carrots, rice, and sometimes chicken, but all she would eat tonight (and the first time) was the carrots. Maybe she didn’t like the cheesy sauce, but really, there’s nothing in this recipe that she shouldn’t like.  She kept hollering and reaching for the fridge during supper, and my only guess at what she wanted was pancakes. I tend to keep a bunch in the fridge because they make an easy breakfast (and snack), but perhaps I’ve come to rely too heavily on them. I gave her a glass of milk, and that comprised the bulk of her supper. Mistake? Perhaps, but I would have let her have the milk anyway.

So what now? I suppose I’ll do more dinners like tonight- foods that she likes, and if she doesn’t eat them, she goes to bed hungry.  Sooner or later she’ll have to learn that what we’re eating is all there is. Hopefully she caves before I do.

Resolutions

A while back I reviewed a book and said that it was inspiring, so I thought I’d share the things I have resolved based on the ideas I got from French Kids Eat Everything.

1. I resolved to clean up the table and to have it set with everything at the start of dinner so that dinner will be relaxing, and I won’t have to jump up to get the things I forgot every few minutes.  I bought a nice table cloth and have been better about having everything ready at meal time, but this is still a work in progress.

table prior to makeover

Before

 

Table after makeover

After

Right now our table looks more like the before picture, only with a table cloth. It’s hard to know what to do with all my stuff when I don’t have a desk or any other workspace. If you have any ideas, let me know.

2. I resolved to introduce new foods to Sweet Potato each week. So far she’s tried pesto, canaloupe, and honey dew, and tonight she’s going to try seitan.  Part of this means that I will need to cook different meals on a regular basis, and that’s going pretty well so far too.

3. I’m toying with the idea of nixing snacks for myself. We’ll see if that ever happens.

I think that’s all the resolutions I made, but if I think of any more, I’ll add them.  If you read the book, what have you decided to change (or continue)?

Resolutions

A while back I reviewed a book and said that it was inspiring, so I thought I’d share the things I have resolved based on the ideas I got from French Kids Eat Everything.

1. I resolved to clean up the table and to have it set with everything at the start of dinner so that dinner will be relaxing, and I won’t have to jump up to get the things I forgot every few minutes.  I bought a nice table cloth and have been better about having everything ready at meal time, but this is still a work in progress.

table prior to makeover

Before

 

Table after makeover

After

Right now our table looks more like the before picture, only with a table cloth. It’s hard to know what to do with all my stuff when I don’t have a desk or any other workspace. If you have any ideas, let me know.

2. I resolved to introduce new foods to Sweet Potato each week. So far she’s tried pesto, canaloupe, and honey dew, and tonight she’s going to try seitan.  Part of this means that I will need to cook different meals on a regular basis, and that’s going pretty well so far too.

3. I’m toying with the idea of nixing snacks for myself. We’ll see if that ever happens.

I think that’s all the resolutions I made, but if I think of any more, I’ll add them.  If you read the book, what have you decided to change (or continue)?

Book review: French Kids Eat Everything

French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters

amazon.com

I put French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon on hold at the library when a friend recommended it to me after my sippy cup musings. I was a little skeptical that I’d actually read and finish it (I’m not much of one for non-fiction), but I’ve had a hard time putting it down!  There are so many good snippets of wisdom, that I wanted to mark at least every other page, but had to stop myself because it’s a library book.  Shucks! That makes remembering where the good parts are difficult, which in turns makes writing a review a little tricky.

In FKEE, Le Billon writes about her time spent in France as a Canadian mom (kids ages: 6 and “toddler”) with her French husband.  They moved to Brittany, a rural area in northern France where his family lives.  She spends quite a bit of time throughout the book describing French food culture because it has such a tremendous bearing on the way French kids eat.  When she said that the topic of what’s for lunch comes up at the breakfast table, and more often than not what’s for supper comes up at lunch, I thought to myself  “a nation of people just like me! and so many of the other dietitians I know!”

Near the beginning of the book (p 51), she quotes Ellyn Satter’s “division of responsibility” (without actually citing it, maybe because she doesn’t know how right on she stated it or where she actually got it): “Kids get to decide whether, what, and how much to eat.” Unfortunately, in context, she makes this sound like a ludicrous idea, mostly because of the way she was putting it into practice: letting her kids dictate what she cooked for them for meals and letting them eat snacks at any time, anywhere.

The rest of the book goes on to describe her discovery of the French food “rules”- more like habits, as culture is wont to be, and her implementation of them in her own family.  These rules are printed conveniently on the back cover of the book.  Anyway, in her description of how the rules play out in the lives of the French people she observed (friends, inlaws, strangers), she pretty much describes a whole society whose eating culture is a grand example of Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility, as well as all the “mindful eating” stuff that dietitians like to talk about.

In France, parents and schools set meal times. There is no snacking, except for the after school snack.  Wouldn’t you know, Ellyn Satter (ES) says that it’s the parent’s job to set the times of meals and snacks!

In France, kids eat what the adults eat. One meal is prepared, and everyone partakes of it. ES also recommends no “short-order” cooking.

In France, parents tell their kids to try a food, and expect that it may take as many as 10 or more trials before a child likes the food.  ES tells parents to expose a child to food at least many times before throwing in the towel.

In France, when a child doesn’t like a food after tasting it, the adults say “you just haven’t tasted it enough times yet. Maybe next time!” and move on- no stressing and agonizing about what the child will eat.  ES says to keep meal times stress free.  The main difference between what ES says and what French culture dictate is that the French, apparently, do strongly encourage a child to taste a food, whereas ES doesn’t recommend this.

I could go on and on about how what the French are doing (according to Le Billon) is almost exactly what Ellyn Satter recommends after all her hours of research and working with kids and families on eating. Funny that someone could spend a lifetime in America discovering that the French cultural way of eating and teaching children to eat is the best way to get kids to eat a healthy, varied diet, and to enjoy eating for what it is rather than emotionalising it. Huh.

I’ll just end by giving you the rules for school lunches set out by the french National Ministry of Education, which I think are some of the best I’ve heard.

“Vegetables had to be served at every meal: raw one day, cooked the next.  Fried food could be served no more than once per week. Real fish had to be served at least once per week. Fruit was served for dessert every second meal, at a minimum; sugary desserts were allowed- but only once per week.” (p 42)

I have found this book very inspiring, and I recommend you read it- especially if you have kids or are just interested in the food culture of another nation.

Le Billon, Karen. French Kids Eat Everything. 2012, Harper Collins, New York.