“Can you make me a marshmallow sandwich?”
This is what my four year old daughter asked me the other day. A nice white bread sandwich with marshmallows in the middle. A sugar on top of sugar, sandwiched with sugar sandwich. Sigh..I hate food sometimes.
I am a program advisor for a food program. We filter money from the state into daycare homes. Daycare providers receive reimbursements that (ideally) help them purchase the nutritional foods that they will need to provide for their daycare children.
“This recipe book has some great ideas about what to do with quinoa,” I told this to various daycare providers during our home trainings. It was after about the 50th home when the daycare provider turned to me and asked…
“You mean ‘keen-wah’?”
It was then that a little Sandra Dee in my head threw her red and white pom pons and exclaimed,
“YOU’RE A FAKE AND A PHONY AND I WISH I NEVER LAID EYES ON YOU!”
Because yes, I did mean ‘keen-wah’, it was just that I was pronouncing it as ‘Quin-oa’ the whole time…probably because I had never seen it before and it wouldn’t make my grocery list ‘cut’ anytime in the near future.
Being in this particular role has taught and convicted me in many ways. I am never in a place where there is not something to learn. Here are some things that I have learned on the job.
1. Your responsibility is to put the food on the plate, the child’s responsibility is what they will eat.
2. Meal patterns as followed:
Breakfast = grain, fruit/veggie, milk
Lunch= protein, grain, 2 fruit/veggies, milk
Snacks= 2 of any food group
3. Portion sizes. Lots of visuals for this, deck of cards, an egg, look it up. 1 TBSP per year of age up to 5 is easiest I’ve remembered. This is when I joke that I am 37 so 37 TBSPs works (bah dum dum).
4. It might take a long time for them to like a certain food. A lot of times, like 20 or something like that (please don’t make me research this). That means 20 times of putting peas on a plate to be completely ignored. Try one pea, lick a pea, those kind of things. Not pushing, just encouraging.
5. If you don’t want them to eat it. Don’t buy it. This is a home lesson in progress. We shake our fists at the popsicle binging and the red dye imbibing, but who brought it in?
6. Don’t fret about picky eaters. Kids are picky. There are homes I go into and I marvel in the one year old who is happily eating avocado. This caregiver enjoys food prep and may or may not have parents who support healthy eating at home. The caregiver has bought avocado and serves it. It doesn’t always work like this. Children have concentrated taste buds (more than adults) and may not like certain textures (sensory issues or not). Don’t make it a power struggle and remember this is developmentally typical in preschool children.
7. Avoid the power struggle. No need to elaborate. Don’t do it.
8. Model Healthy Habits. You can’t expect a child not to want the cookies that you dunk in your coffee. You opened a can of worms when you created the warm fuzzy happy meal feeling. Guilty as charged.
9. Start small. Look a lot of people are just naturally awesome at healthy eating and others who just aren’t. Start by making smoothies and introducing a darker shade to your bread, this isn’t a contest.
10. May the Forks Be With You. Good luck in your journey, don’t get discouraged.