Hi, I’m Teresa O’Malley, a qualified public health nutritionist, and I’ve got a picky eater myself, so I wanted to share with you three ways that have really helped me to experience a much calmer mealtime environment.
So let’s dive in straight to number one. What has really helped me, is to actually just lower my expectations. I had to realise that there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to feeding our kids healthy foods. If you feel really stressed about food, your kids can sense it. So we need to stay calm. If mealtimes are calm, your kids will feel calm. And when you drop some of the pressure off yourself, you’ll feel like it’s less of a burden anyway and you can have more fun with it.
So moving on to number two is knowing what we should actually be aiming for anyway. I think sometimes it can be overwhelming thinking about feeding our kids healthy food, and what makes it worse is going in blind. When we actually look at what we’re aiming for as a goal, it helps to break it down. Our Australian dietary guidelines are here to assist us as to what we should be aiming for.
Let’s just think about veggies, because this food group is often the most tricky when it comes to picky eaters or just toddlers in general, or kids. For toddlers (2-3 year olds), we should be aiming for two and a half serves per day. And when we know this and when we know what this looks like, then that is what is helpful to start thinking about things outside the box.
Serves of vegetables per day for 2-3 year olds = 2.5 minimun
1/2 cup chickpeas
1/4 cup peas
1/4 cup celery/watercress
1/2 sweet potato
1/2 cup beetroot
1/4 cup green beans
1/2 cup black beans
1 small sweet corn cob
1/2 cup lentils
1/2 cup zuccini
Let’s have a look at it, breaking it down to get a variety across a week. It can be really helpful to do this so that it doesn’t overwhelm us, because we don’t want to wait until the end of the day to squeeze them all in because then dinnertime is going to be loaded with pressure. So it does take a fair bit of time to experiment when it comes to picky eaters, and I know and understand that there are lots of kids that won’t eat some of these foods listed above in their whole form.
So look at day one. Would your child eat a hummus dip with some crackers, and can those peas and tomatoes go into a pasta sauce? Day two, would your child eat a cauliflower fried rice type dish? Day three, can we think about doing some sweet potato fries and can that beetroot go into a dip with some cream cheese, and would your kids like to open up those snow peas and have a little look at what’s inside and maybe taste them? Day four, lots of Mexican dishes we can use with beans. So chile con carne, burritos, tacos, is a really great way to get these foods in. And day five, we’ve got some lentils there, so have you tried a lentil soup and having a really nice bread to dip into it? We need to be exploring smoothies and dips and sauces and meatballs etc to get them in. Now, we still need to provide plenty of opportunities for the kids to see these foods, but remember, we can’t force it.
That brings us to number three. That is really understanding and recognising that the parent provides and the child decides. We can put the food on the plate or table, but ultimately they are the ones that will decide how much they’ll have. And it’s really important to remember that nothing is set in stone, our children will change and if we don’t continue to provide the opportunity for healthy eating, then it doesn’t help them to learn.
I do have a little example of this. The other day I did a lunchtime activity for the boys, and I provided a whole bunch of different foods and said that they could decorate either the apple slice, a rice cake, or a cruskit.
Let’s take a look at what my picky eater did.
Okay, so he went for the hummus and choc chips, of course he did. But that’s okay, because afterwards I asked him to make a picture with the colourful foods, and we made a fish swimming in the water with some seaweed. And even though he didn’t eat any of the carrot or the beans or seeds or berries, he was still experimenting with them and he was experiencing the touch and the smell of them. And getting this exposure is really important. He saw me eating and enjoying the apple, and he saw his brother eating various other foods, so it’s all part of that learning experience.
I talk to a lot of mums about feeding kids, and I’m often told that feeding kids healthy food is really challenging, and I absolutely agree. It took me a while to get to the point that I am at now. As a nutritionist, I knew what I should be eating and feeding my kids on paper, but the reality can be a different story.
The Childhood and Family Nutrition 6 week online program has been designed to help mums/dads/carers learn and be inspired to feed their family great food without the pressure.
Together with a dietitian, Megan, we’ve created this program and want as many people to benefit from it as possible. I believe it will shift your mindset and give you more confidence. Sometimes we get busy and I think we can all benefit from a little reflection, some inspiration and a fresh approach.
Let me help you feel like you’ve got this whole feeding kids thing under control.
What’s in the program?
I’ll be talking about the Australian dietary guidelines, but not just telling you what they are, actually how we do involve them and how we utilise them in a practical way. About portion control and meal planning, so tips and strategies and lunchbox ideas. Fussy eating, how we work with it and not against it. Family rules, what works and what doesn’t. And rewards, so the right way to encourage healthy relationships with food. Eating outside the home and just tips for different circumstances that might pop up, and we’ll have recipes and meal plan ideas as well.
The program is self-paced and you will have my support throughout the program.
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Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.