Interviewing Lauren Breeden, Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) and Feeding Specialist
Answering our questions about picky eaters
Fights at the dinner table! What should parents of picky eaters do? Lauren says this is a widespread and perfectly normal part of having small children. It’s our job to feed our children and make sure they are nourished and taken care of and it’s a battle to get the kids to eat sometimes. It’s a punch in the gut when we work really hard to prepare nutritious food for our children and they won’t touch it. A lot of her clients even pitch a fit when new foods are even close to them! So first of all, Lauren said momma’s need to know this is not your fault and it’s not YOU or something that you as a mom are doing wrong to create picky eaters. It’s something that many many moms deal with and also something that you can get through.
We often hear moms ask about changing food preferences… “My toddler suddenly hates the foods he used to love. Help!” Lauren said it’s funny that we expect our kids to love the same foods forever. We think fantastic, my baby ate sweet peas last week and now we think we’re golden and our baby is going to love sweet peas for the rest of his life. In reality…we’re not that way. Just because you as a parent like certain foods doesn’t mean you’ll be in the mood for it or want that food every time it’s presented to you. We love sushi but I have to be in the mood for it. Same with the little ones. Sometimes it’s just they aren’t interested that day. Kids want variety and sometimes they can’t voice that fact. Sometimes they just want something new or they have lost interest for a time. That doesn’t mean you are a failure or your child will never eat those sweet peas again. There’s also a critical period in a developing toddlers life where they want to be independent and not only do they want it they need to be developing that independence and self will. Having their own voice to say they do or don’t want to eat certain things can be a sign of a self confident child. So one way to help your toddler is to give them a few choices when its dinner time.
And yet, moms don’t want to turn into short order cooks. Where is the line between giving our children choices and having some rules and boundaries allowing a child to exert their budding independence and still having a sense of knowing mom and dad are still in charge? Because it’s never a good idea to become a short order chef for the family and heres why… kids are smart. And they can figure out really quick if I full or kick and scream or hold my breath and I don’t have to eat then they will! It’s cause and effect. So moms, Lauren says, take a deep breath and know that it’s not the end of the world if your child (given a few options) decides to not eat dinner. If your 2 your old refuses to eat dinner they will be hungry for breakfast. When we think of a childs diet we need to think in terms of a weekly basis instead of daily. We don’t need to focus on or worry over how many calories our children are getting everyday. Unless, of course, they are under a doctors care and NEED to be counting calories for specific health issues. Lauren suggests keeping a food journal and writing down what your child is eating for the week. You might be surprised to see just how much they are getting. Record what they eat, what they won’t eat, how much, how often…and you’ll get a clearer picture of your child’s eating habits. Lauren also cautioned on serving your children too much. So often we set out dinner for the family and give our children portions that are way too much for their little tummies to handle. Remember your child’s stomach is about the size of their fist. So smaller portions can also be a way to help your children not feel overwhelmed at the table. Children are good self regulators; they know when they are hungry and they know when they are full. So often as parents we freak out, “Oh my gosh, they only ate 2 bites of chicken and I put 10 on the plate! They aren’t getting enough protien!!” It’s ok. Realize, maybe it’s not so bad. And journaling can give you a better view and bigger picture of what your child is eating.
So how much is enough? How can we as parents measure and know they are getting enough. And it’s not just food it’s liquids too. So often, little ones are asking for 3 or 4 glasses of milk everyday. And after weaning children do not need that much milk. Milk is so high in protein, so high in calories and rich in fat that too much milk could be the culprit in your child simply not being very hungry when it comes to dinner time. To measure how much is enough think in terms of the “myplate” graphic where half the plate is fruits and veggies, 1/4 is protein and a 1/4 is some sort of rice or complex carbohydrate (and that doesn’t mean mac and cheese) and a small glass of milk or water. You are offering nutritious options, a variety and options. The point isn’t that they clean their plate or eat everything, it’s that it’s there for them, they have variety and choices. Lauren says, “Your job as a parent is to provide healthy foods and their job is to pick and choose what they want to eat.” Because there has to be that shared control…because far too often pushing a child to eat just makes them push back.
When it comes to picky eaters, Lauren says many times when she has a new patient come in for evaluation she will start by asking the parents if they have any food sensitivities or picky problems of their own… and more often than not the parents will say they too are picky eaters.
And the funny thing is parents don’t think there’s a connection. But parents who are picky will often not purchase food choices that they themselves don’t like and will by virtue of “monkey see monkey do” will have children that have the same picky preferences. We don’t want to inadvertently pass down a picky preference just because we don’t like something.
Here at picky eater project have witnessed this first hand. My grand daughter was over having lunch and I hesitated when she asked me what was in the veggie drawer in the fridge… it was celery. And although I love celery I knew her grandpa hated it and I didn’t think she’d like it either. I decided to let her decide. I made a small plate of celery and gave her some ranch dip to dip them in… And low and behold she liked it!
One last suggestion Lauren gave us for dealing with picky eaters was to look into whole food supplementation. She uses and recommends Juice Plus which are juiced fruit and veggies made into capsules and chewables. She shared her families health journey and how supplementing with these chewables helped with her own children’s health journey. She also highly recommends JP+ to her clients and patients. To learn more about Juice Plus click here.
So, Lauren summed up our interview by saying the key in dealing with picky eaters is first and for most to understand it’s not your fault, to be sure and give children choices, letting them decide how much or how little they eat and remembering that they have small tummies and small appetites. Consider keeping a food journal if you are concerned they aren’t getting enough. And there are times when picky eating can become an issue. Lauren said it really never hurts to get a second opinion. (And another reason why keeping a food journal can come in handy.) Getting an opinion from your pediatrician is always a good idea if you have real concerns about your child’s eating habits.
To listen to the full interview and hear more from Lauren’s advice click on the video link. Follow us @thepickyeaterproject on Facebook or to connect with us personally click here.
Turn your picky eater into a healthy eater – Interviewing Lauren Breeden, Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) and Feeding Specialist