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My Approach to Mealtimes with a Toddler

I think that as parents we all just try our best with our children. There's no rule book or manual and so we rely on instinct and gut feeling. I think that there are days for every parent where they feel that they've got it so right and other days where that awful parent-guilt attacks, holds on and can't be easily shaken off. I think that we all go through the same thing, just on different days.



One of the things that as a parent I struggle to know if I'm getting right is mealtimes with my toddler. I think I've always felt an additional pressure with mealtimes because Adam and I are raising Ethan as vegetarian, so we're quite particular about seeing that he gets his protein from non-meat sources. Around a year ago, I'd let this pressure build up and turn into anxiety. I would go over the top and stress myself out with worrying about what foods Ethan was and wasn't eating. He's my first child and so I suppose this is probably quite natural, but after a chat with the health visitor, I've since calmed down and relaxed quite a great deal when it comes to mealtimes and I really do feel so much better for it. 

I think we're lucky in that Ethan loves egg - a big source of protein and also cheese. He'll drink milk everyday still (just as long as it has a banana blended in to it!) and he's even getting better with trying different fruits. At his age, I am reluctant to accept that there are any foods that he doesn't like.. I've tried him with things previously that he's spat out or point blank refused, but when I've tried him again another day he's eaten whatever it was that he'd previously refused. So for us, I think it's about encouragement and not giving up on the first go when it comes to getting Ethan to try new foods. 

Ethan, like most children, goes through phases of eating really well and then he'll go through phases of really trying it on to see if he can get his all time favourite meal of pasta rather than the vegetables I've served up on his plate. I think as parents, Adam and I just accept that this is just part of toddler-hood and so try to take the approach of staying calm and giving lots of encouragement  We have occasionally offered him different foods if we truly believe that he has tried and doesn't like or want what we've given him, but this is rare as we don't want him to learn that he can take charge when it comes to demanding different meals. We like to encourage variety. 

Breakfast is always our easiest mealtime, followed by lunch. It's at dinner time when we can run in to a bit of trouble, but on the whole things have started to get a little easier and as I mentioned above, I put this down to different phases that Ethan goes through. 

A month or so ago I took a survey that I was sent via email around children's eating habits conducted by MyVoucherCodes.co.uk, the results of which have since been published over on FamilyFriendlyWorking.co.uk. The results are quite interesting and the article is well worth a read..

The survey asked: “Do you let your children decide what to eat?” To which 67% of parents said, yes.

They also asked parents how often they allowed their children to eat snacks, convenience and fast foods as well as sugary drinks.
  • Sugary and fizzy drinks – 62% of parents allow their children to drink these every day.
  • Caffeine drinks – 14% of children are drinking these drinks every day.
  • Crisps and Snacks – 32% of parents let their children eat these every day.
  • Chocolate, biscuits & breakfast bars – 39% of parents give their children these every day.
  • Raw vegetables, fruit or nuts as a snack – 26% of parents have never given their children these.
  • Pre-prepared ready meals – 45% of parents will feed their children these meals at least a couple of times a week.
  • Sausage rolls & shop bought sandwiches – 28% of children are given these at least once a week.
Commenting on the findings, Mark Pearson founder of My Voucher Codes said: “It is important that children have healthy and balanced diets and reduce the amount of sugary foods and drinks they have. However we know from our research this can be easier said than done, especially as some children can be very fussy eaters and these patterns can be hard to break.” - I totally agree with this statement, I think it is easier said than done to get children to eat a variety of foods. We've all been children ourselves and I know from my personal point of view that I was extremely fussy and would never have eaten things as a child that I do now as an adult. 
Our approach to meal times with Ethan is offering a variety of foods and not just the foods he prefers. After that it's a mix of encouragement and persistence, in that we will always try again another time if the first time doesn't go so well, as very often he will then be happy to at least give it another go on another occasion. 
How do you find mealtimes with your children? 


 


5 comments

  1. Your page is so cute!!!

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  2. Wow those survey results are awful! haha, I'm so strict with what Sienna eats I think but hopefully she'll thank me when she's older! Xx

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  3. I completely agree with your approach of offering a variety of things at mealtimes not just what they prefer. T is 14 months and eating a much more varied diet now than a few months ago- I could have just stuck with offering him things I knew he would eat, but gentle persistence has meant that his diet is much more balanced- last night he ate carrot and peas, amazing! (He's probably going to throw all his meals on the floor today now that I've said that)

    Happy due date! Hope you're not waiting too much longer to meet baby.

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  4. This is interesting. My girls are only allowed a kinderegg or any other sweet/chocolate on Fridays and the weekend if they have behaved during the week. My youngest is REALLY fussy with her foods. She will only usually eat pasta. Hardly ever will she eat sandwiches I make her but shockingly today for the time in months and months I bought her a ready made sandwich from morrisons and she ate it!!!! I was over the moon. It's better than a McDonalds right? Never do I have ready-made meals for the kids, although I have nothing against them I just never think of buying them. xx

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  5. Awful! He eats everything in creche but picky at home. he used to be brilliant with vegetables as a baby/toddler. Now just picks out the peas.

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