This month is National Nutrition Month and the theme is “Celebrate a World of Flavors”. When I think of really flavorful cuisine, I often think of one of the Lemond Nutrition dietitian’s favorites --- Mediterranean food. One of the things I like about Mediterranean food is that it truly offers so many different textures and spice combinations with seemingly simple ingredients. The idea of simple, yet flavorful ingredients also makes me think of feeding children and the experience of introducing new foods and flavors as children grow.
Being a proud mommy of an almost 2-year-old, I get to be creative with exposing my little to an array of flavors and textures. I’d be lying if I say that it didn’t get a little messy when getting my little one involved, but the mess is worth it because I know I am helping build skills and confidence. In my “perfect world” I envisioned myself doing cute little cookie cutter fruits and fun kabobs. Do other parents dream about this or is it just a dietitian thing? My reality is that I have never done this, but I do provide a wide variety and I am growing an adventurous eater.
I consider myself blessed to have the nutrition education that I do to help make what can be a difficult time of feeding go a little more smoothly. Please note that I did not say “perfectly”. One thing I have learned along the way is that every feeding journey is different, so have grace with yourself and your littles when things aren’t how you envisioned them being at meals. Just as adults can feed off of others emotions, children can feed off of ours at meal time. So, take a deep breath, say a quick prayer for sanity, locate the paper towels and finally --- let them get messy! Today I share with you a couple of my personal top priorities as a dietitian and new mom when it comes to meals and navigating the home with a little (messy but cute) eater.
My Priority #1 | Prioritize Family Meals
I know this one can be tough, but aim to eat with your family as often as possible! Here are a couple of benefits that we have seen with this in our home: connection, instilling healthy habits, promoting structure/consistency, and modeling expectations/manners at meal time. My quirky brain just thought of the Field of Dreams movie line “build it and they will come” --- there really is something to this.
My Priority #2 | Prepare Only One Meal
If I am being honest, this is probably one of the most important things that you can do as a parent to help foster a healthy pattern for the whole family. It is important for kids to be exposed to a variety of textures and flavors so that they can meet nutrition needs and have enjoyable experiences with food as they grow. If you struggle in this area – know that you are not alone! Making that shift will take a lot consistency, but it is possible! I highly encourage reaching out to a dietitian to help you with figuring out steps to take to move towards this if this one just doesn’t seem to stick in your home. It is our pleasure to help to help others navigate meals more confidently and this includes the parents.
My Priority #3 | Let Them Make The Mess
I’d be lying if the mashed cherry tomato on the new white shirt (I just can’t), the shredded cheese on the floor (thank goodness for dogs) or the macaroni noodle hidden in the toy train (yes, this happened) did not cause a sigh on occasion after a long day. When it comes down to it though, these skills are foundational for them and it serves a purpose of more than feeding my child. My child also is getting a chance to practice skills that are important for his age to hit milestones. Did I mention our chihuahua and Doberman love the mess?
If you find that you are struggling with feeding your little one or maybe even implementing healthy habits around food yourself, please reach out. This process truly is a journey and it is our honor to go it with you.
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