Inspiration from Meghan

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Beyond the Tantrums and Tears: 3 Lessons For Meal Times With Little Ones


Written by fantabulous mama extraordinaire and superbo sister in law, Carly Telpner. We are so pleased to have Carly share her tips for developing healthy eating habits in kiddies!

This morning my darling two-year old daughter, sweet little Mia, ate a breakfast that consisted of almonds, strawberries, homemade pumpkin muffin and a green-berry smoothie that had strawberries, blueberries, kale, and hemp seeds in it. Sounds wonderful, right?

I’d love to be able to say that Mia’s eating habits just happened, but as any parent would know – it took a lot of work, perseverance and little person tears. Along the way I have learned some important lessons that not only apply to instilling healthy and nourishing eating habits in my kid, but to overall parenting.

1. Start as you intend to continue.
My mom-in-law, Patsy, taught me this and has been a mantra for me. From the moment I started Mia on solids, I stuck to homemade purees and stews using fruits, veggies and whole grains. It took a bigger effort on my part (and a bigger mess to clean up while being sleep deprived), but for the most part it’s the only kind of food Mia knows. This lesson also holds true for no toys or technology at the table. It’s never been present, so it’s never been expected or turned into a habit. Meals at my house are a time for family, conversation and the occasional sing-a-long. But it hasn’t always been so civilized. There was a time when Mia welcomed her dinner plate with screams and tears for toast. I used to give in for the peace and quiet and as quickly as toast would appear, Mia’s tears would be gone and replaced with a winning smile. When lesson number one went off the tracks, I move onto lesson number two, perseverance and consistency.

2. Perseverance and Consistency
Undoing unwanted habits is tough, but parents play a hand in creating them and have the ability to change them. We had a week of battles over mealtime and with all the tears, screams, and my own doubts, I persevered. Mia may have gone to bed a little hungry on the first day, but she didn’t starve and day-by-day mealtime got better. It took a week for her to stop screaming and when looking at the bigger picture it was all worth it. Once in a while she’ll try to test us (as all toddlers do) and ask for toast again, but when I consistently say no with a smile I just get a sly smile back, and Mia moves on to her plate without the tears.

3. Lead By Example
My third lesson may seem cliché and common, but it’s something I live by and is the most important in my mind. I would never expect Mia to eat something I wouldn’t eat myself. All the same, if Mia’s not allowed to play with toys at the table all of our technology is put away and no phone calls, emails, texts or tweets are taken at the table either. As any parent knows, kids watch everything we do and take pride in mimicking the adults in their lives. If there’s no processed junk food around for my husband, Michael, and I to eat, then there’s no processed junk food around for Mia to eat.

As an everyday parent, I know it’s not always so simple or easy and following three lessons won’t solve all your parenting challenges. With a a screaming child by my side, I’ve asked myself many times ‘how did we get here?’. I am constantly reminding myself of my own three lessons while figuring out this challenging job. One thing I know for sure is that the hard work that comes with feeding my child a healthy, nourishing and ‘Meghan approved’ diet is more than worth a few tantrums and tears.

Question of the Day: What are your tips for getting your kids to eat the good stuff…and ditch the bad?


23 Responses to “Beyond the Tantrums and Tears: 3 Lessons For Meal Times With Little Ones”

  1. Janet said…
    Great Post Carly! I couldn't agree more. Your simple rules underscore what really matters when feeding kids. As the mom of 3 "grown up" kids (now in their teens and twenties) I speak from experience when I say that its what we consistently model as parents that has the greatest impact on our kids. If eating and enjoying delicious, real food together as a family is the norm for your kids, then it's what they will continue to do. Now that they're away at university, my two older kids often make "family dinner" for their roommates, and have introduced their friends to the farmer's market! My best tip for getting your kids to eat the "good stuff" is simply to eat it (and enjoy it) yourself! (P.S. I'm loving watching Mia grow up -she's beautiful!)
  2. Parents, read on! Sweet tips for #healthy #baby bellies
  3. saniel said…
    i can put all of those tips into use but the question remains how do i get him to actually eat the food?? My son will eat applesauce for every meal if he could but we all know that is not part of a balanced diet. I prepare the foods I know are good for him sauteed kale, brown rice, baked tofu and he will sit with it in his mouth not CHEWING!! i make smoothies and soups which he loves but they run right thru him and I am dealing with a poopy mess. i encourage him to eat it because I know it is good for him but he being 2yrs old doesn't see it that way! I know he will eat the foods he doesn't like with applesauce and toast but that is not setting a good example because he will learn if i dont like it mom will give me applesauce to wash it down faster. HELP
    • Mary said…
      I would google "Baby-Led Weaning" for some ideas on finger foods for toddlers. There's also "Sneaky Chef" way of doing things, but then they don't learn to appreciate whole foods. What about trying to expand his repetoire with sweeter vegetables (squash wedges, sweet potato fries)?
  4. Fabulous, simple tips! I am always working on getting my 3 year old daughter (also a Mia) to try new foods and to learn to love "real food". It's fun to explore food with her and try interesting new foods (kale chips, anyone?) and get creative with familiar foods (hard boiled eggs molded into teddy bears!). Thanks for these wonderful tips to keep it simple!
  5. LOVE these toddler food tips from Making Love in the Kitchen: #toddlers #healthy #parenting
  6. Savannah said…
    In our case, I find that my 3 yr old will more likely to eat the food I serve if I explain to her why it's good for her. Thanks for this post and Mia is super adorable!
  7. Cutest blog post ever? Maybe, just maybe. #parenting #health
  8. best three #tips for #parents who want to fill babies bellies w/ goodness
  9. Sunny said…
    For me I think it started with breast feeding (when it's possible) and baby lead weaning. And, the lead by example one is huge!
  10. Rebecca said…
    Unless someone is sick, we follow the "one family, one meal" rule. We've definitely witnessed some tears and some hungry bellies, but the approach (combined with exposing my boys to meal prep and a variety of foods) has been a great strategy. The only problem now is the size of my grocery bill...yikes!

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