Tall and skinny.
Those are two words that perfectly describe our preschool-aged son. At 6 months old his weight dropped from the 60th percentile down to the 16th percentile. The nurses and doctors at the clinic expressed concern that perhaps he wasn’t getting enough to eat.
Back then I was a new mom and this worried the bejeezus out of me. I spent meal times attempting to increase his food intake, despite the fact that he didn’t want to eat more.
Three years later and my son is still skinny. He falls right around the 10th percentile for weight and 80th percentile for height, making him appear even skinnier than other kids his age.
And for the past three years, my husband and I have tirelessly tried to get our son to eat more. To eat just one more bite. To try just one more food offered on his plate.
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If you came to our house for dinner, you’d see me walking around the house with a fork to see if my child would eat another bite. Or you’d see my son up and down from the dinner table throughout the entire meal. Or you’d see him sitting on my lap like a little bird waiting for the next bite to drop into the gullet.
I mean, seriously, it was ridiculous and it often led to us trying to tame temper tantrums during dinner. Something had to change. And so we implemented six rules that changed everything.
Kids don’t need as much as you think.
Reading a bit about how much food kids really need, it’s fascinating to learn the daily requirements are not much.
Here is a great break-down of daily requirements for a typical two-year-old:
- 3 oz of grains (1 oz is a slice of regular bread, or half a cup of cooked pasta).
- 1 cup of vegetables (or 2 if it’s lettuce or leafy greens)
- 1 cup of fruit (or half a cup of dried fruit)
- 2 oz of protein (1 oz is an egg or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter)
- 2 cups of dairy or soy.
These quantities are for an entire day. Broken down into three meals and two snacks, it’s quite small portions. A meal might consist of ¼ cup vegetables, ¼ cup fruit and ½ cup cooked whole wheat pasta.
Pressuring kids creates poor eating habits.
When I spent meals chasing my son around like a circus monkey, he learned that dinner time was all about a silly chasing game rather than eating.
When I pressured him to eat one more bite, he learned to resist meals and engage in a power struggle.
When I bribed him to eat food in order to earn dessert, he learned to treat food as a reward for doing a basic everyday task.
Pressuring kids can lead you into troubled waters when it comes to facilitating healthy eating habits. The more you pressure, the more a your child resists, and the less results you see at the dinner table.
The easy change you can make today.
I gave up.
I quit stressing.
I just let it be.
Allow family dinner time to revolve around the following rules:
- Offer only healthy choices throughout the day.
- Sitting at the table is required, eating is not.
- Eat as much or as little as you like.
- Everyone feeds themselves.
- No bribery allowed.
- Offer positive phrases such as “You are a healthy eater.”
The more we offered our son only healthy choices, the more adventurous he became over time. Trusting him to regulate his own food intake eliminated dinner time battles and encouraged a positive mealtime experience almost every night of the week.
Allowing your kids to eat at a comfortable height can encourage them to stay at the table longer and eat well since they don’t have to stand up and down in the chair with each bite (This is the booster seat we use). Using kid utensils also encourages better eating since little ones are able to maneuver food into their mouths easier.
Update: This adorable Chew Chew Train Set got our son and daughter really excited for mealtimes!
Kids are amazing food regulators.
To be blunt, a healthy developing child will not innately starve him or herself.
This means it’s okay to trust your child to regulate their own food, even if it seems scary at first.
After two years, I finally realized that running after a child with a fork, bribing for just one more bite, and doing three jumping jacks will only lead to one thing—a tired mama.
Today our preschooler is healthy, happy and growing. And you know what? He’s still skinny. That’s his body type. That’s his genetics. So whether I am chasing him around trying to force feed him or allowing him to regulate his food intake, he’s still the same weight percentage and body type.
I think I’ll save myself the fatigue and frustration.
I’m taking the laid back approach to meal time.
And I’m not going back.
Print this free printable checklist.
This post comes with a free printable checklist to help with picky eating! Let your kids challenge themselves to circle all the fruits and vegetables they’ve tried. Plus, get an “Eat the Rainbow” placemat for mealtimes.
Here is a sneak preview!
Download Your Free Printable
- Download the checklist. You’ll get the printable, plus join my weekly newsletter!
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Place it on your refrigerator. Check things off as you go and don’t forget a thing!
Want more on toddlers?
- How to Get Your Child to Listen at Dinner Without Bribery
- 100+ Printable Chore Cards for Responsibility and Family Contribution
- How to Get Your Child to Follow a Routine Without Reminders (Printable)
- Best Morning Routine Tips and Tricks Your Kids Will Actually Follow
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- Learn simple, yet highly effective listening strategies
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