Thursday, January 23, 2014

Meal time

I've never heard anyone say "I hope my child grows up to be an unhealthy eater."  But helping your child become a healthy eater can be a time-consuming and tricky process.  My aim with this blog post is to tell you our family's personal experiences with Emma - maybe it will help you, maybe it won't.  I believe that parents do the best they can for children, and recognize that my situation may be completely different than what someone else's is.

One of the things my husband and I discussed before Emma was born was how important I believe it is to eat together as a family.  We did in my family growing up, and I knew I wanted to do the same with my children.  It is a way for our family to catch up with one another, and helps us feel closer to one another.  It provides us with the opportunity to watch Emma develop table manners and learn new foods.  Plus, meals made at home are almost always more healthy and nutritious than those you get when eating out.  (Don't worry:  Emma goes out, too.  We have a weakness for the local Mexican restaurant!)

When she was a baby, I made all of Emma's food.  I absolutely love to cook so I knew before she was born that I would also cook for her, too.  Most people think this takes time, but it actually didn't.  I found it was quicker to make her food than run to the grocery store.

I started by introducing all of the veggies one at a time.  Once we tasted all of the veggies we started introducing fruits.  Our pediatrician recommended that we start with vegetables first because fruit is naturally sweet.  If you start with fruits they love the sweet and will stop eating veggies.  If she didn't like something the first time we never gave up on it.  We would attempt the next day.

She now is a healthy little eater!!  For breakfast, Emma loves oatmeal and Greek yogurt.  When it comes to snack time, she heads for the sliced strawberries, yogurt-covered raisins, hummus, and cheese.

We focus a lot on keeping her meals balanced:  a pediatrician once told me that when breaking it down for children, aim for half of the plate to be vegetables, salads and fruit; a quarter of the plate to be grains, rice, or bread, and the remaining quarter to be meat, poultry, or fish.  (Actually, that advise isn't bad for adults, either!)

One of the reasons I believe Emma is a healthy eater now is because we introduced healthy foods to her as a baby.  More often than not, eating healthy is a learned behavior.  Today, I let her "help" me in the kitchen some, adding some ingredients to dishes and even helping me at the grocery store.  I give her choices and see what she'd like to have that day.  I hope this will help her make healthy choices for years to come.

What do you wish you'd done differently?  What do you hope to do with your children to encourage healthy eating?  I'd love to hear some suggestions from other people - we are entering the "terrible twos" around here - and I can never get enough good ideas!

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