Food, Feeding, Fun and Frustration
Top lessons learned from a dietitian momma
We are excited to share this blog post from the newest member of the Health Stand Nutrition team, Lindsay Rieger, RD. Her full biography can be found here: Lindsay Reiger bio
Lindsay’s energetic personality, encouraging temperament and small town charm won’t expect you to be perfect. Instead she will inspire you and your family to work towards better eating habits while navigating a wide range of health challenges in a straightforward manner. She offers a refreshing, patient and honest approach to nutrition counselling for time-crunched and overwhelmed people that want nutrition and meal planning simplified for success.
Being both a Dietitian and a Mother is an interesting combination and by far the most entertaining aspect of this blend is the assumption of how meals go in our home. “You’re a dietitian. I’m sure your kids love vegetables, devour everything on their plates, don’t eat sugar, and have no idea what Timbits are…”
Awkward pause… Ummm, sort of.
Becoming a parent has taught me a lot, mostly about myself. And as luck would have it, many of these valuable eye-openers have gone down at the dinner table. So for that reason, I would like to take a minute and share what I feel are the top lessons I’ve learned while feeding my three children.
Lesson #1. Choose your battles.
Parenting is hard. Bloody hard. I constantly have to remind myself to respect my children’s food likes and especially dislikes. I also constantly have to remind myself that food can be overwhelming for kids. That said, feeding children can also be overwhelming FOR US. There is nothing like the frustration of begging your child all week to eat one little nibble of meat only to sit down and watch your friend’s toddler plow through a steak. Truth be told, kids are all so different. And realistically, if your child doesn’t like mushrooms or whatever it may be, oh well. Life will likely go on without a deep love for mushrooms. I’ve learned that it just isn’t worth the blood, sweat and tears. What we can do as parents is work on the tried and tested strategies towards children’s food acceptance, choose our battles and then learn to let it go.
Lesson #2. Skip praising and scolding during meals.
If I make it an issue, you can be certain they’ll make it a bigger issue – especially at the table. When talking to parents as a Dietitian about this concept they are always quick to tell me that if I saw their child in action I would understand why they go to battle daily during meals. Some are even so kind as to bring in videos of their little angel in action- always wildly entertaining! I completely understand how frustrating some kids are during meals, my own little animals included. However the truth is that they are almost always reacting off our emotions – positive or negative. Yes this sounds fluffy and cliché but it’s true. I have learned that both praising and scolding during meals often comes back to haunt me. SO, if a celebration is in order because my stubborn, vegetable-hater of a child ate a brussel sprout – I best do it in the other room. Alternatively, if smashing something in frustration and/or a tear or two is needed after my child flat-out refuses the Pinterest-worthy meal that I poured hours of love and preparation into, well I also best do that in the next room.
Lesson #3. Overall balance matter most.
By far the biggest, most important lesson I’ve learned while feeding my children is to focus on the big picture, the overall lifelong nutrition lessons, not the day to day. When my first child was little I avoided giving him absolutely any hot dogs. In my mind, if he didn’t have them he wouldn’t develop a taste for them. Oh the glory days when I knew it all! Fast forward several years to when my son finally tried them. Under his Grandfather’s very watchful eye, he happily chowed down four consecutive hot dogs. FOUR! When informed of this special moment, my first thought was “Hmmm, well that didn’t go according to plan”. (Which ironically pretty much sums up the majority of my parenting experiences). This was a glorious reminder that yes, I certainly can focus on single foods and little details however often, more like always, my children will have a different agenda. I have realized that the most valuable lesson I can teach my children is OVERALL balanced eating – what a plate should look like, why we need a variety of different foods, and finally why delicious foods that we eat for pure enjoyment are equally important – EVEN hotdogs. Maybe just not four of them.
As much as I enjoy making light of the train-wreck scenarios that come with feeding little ones, I am also very aware that there are children that have more serious issues that should and need to be addressed by professionals. Almost always there are strategies that can help improve the situation. Possibly not to what we have in mind as parents, but none the less improvement. Don’t be afraid to reach out and contact a Registered Dietitian for help, guidance and support. It takes a village.
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