What is it about food and kids? Despite swearing I’d never be one of those mums who bribes her kids to finish their dinner, I’ve found myself falling into this habit various times over the past five years. Food can be a really emotive thing as a parent – you want your kids to eat well because you want them to grow strong and healthy, sleep well with a full belly, be grateful for the meal you’ve slaved over… the list goes on. But when it comes to how much our kids should eat, do we really know what’s best? I have to remind myself over and over again that my girls are the best people to judge when their own stomachs are full, not me or anyone else.
Ever since we began Baby-led Weaning with Frog I remember having to repeatedly remind myself to trust her when it came to food. Some days she would wolf down huge amounts of whatever we put in front of her and some days she would just pick. My mantra became “Food is just for fun until they’re one” which was straight out of the BLW book. Her younger sister is very different and, because of that, we haven’t been BLW purists. But still, some days she eats more than others. For example, last night she ate a full bowl of pasta with pesto and green beans whereas the night before she barely touched her tea.
As part of their #LoveGoodFood campaign, the team at Organix has put together a really helpful downloadable guide for parents called The Little Book of Good Food. One of the pieces of advice in the book really struck a chord with me:
If your child is growing well and developing normally then do not worry too much about how much they are eating, even if it seems quite limited.
The book is packed with helpful tips for mums and dads to help their toddlers develop a healthy relationship with food. It debunks the myth that all children should have a certain amount of food and reminds us that different toddlers will need more or less depending on their size and how active they are. This is like a breath of fresh air for mums like me who are struggling against some in-built, old-fashioned idea that children don’t know how much food they need in order to survive.
Here’s another great piece of advice in the book:
Eating little and often is ideal as little tummies only hold small amounts.
I’m definitely guilty of sometimes forgetting this. Our daily routines are so based around a rigid three meals a day type of structure, that sometimes I forget to include snacks when I’m looking at an overall picture of how much my girls have eaten that day. So they may not have cleared their plate at tea time, but they ate a full banana an hour ago – it all counts!
Back to the portion sizes themselves then, and Organix recommend offering “me sized” portions rather than piling a plate high with what you think your youngsters should be eating. Ironically, my girls both tend to eat more if I put less on their plate. I don’t know if it’s a novelty thing (like in fancy restaurants when the portion sizes are fit for a hamster and you’re left wanting more?!) but giving them a small portion and then offering seconds once they’ve finished will nearly always guarantee more is eaten. Weird, I know.
Finally, if we eat out I will tend to order a meal for myself and a side portion of vegetables, and give Baby Girl some of mine. As Frog is now five she will have her own meal, but this doesn’t mean ordering from the kids’ menu. There’ve been many times we’ve ordered a starter from the adults’ menu instead as the options are more varied and the portions are smaller. I would love it if more restaurants had a “little and large” menu option in the kids’ section as it seems unlikely a two year old would eat the same amount as a ten year old.
How about you? What are your tips for healthy portion sizes and staying relaxed about how much your kids eat?
Disclosure: Thanks to Organix for working with me on this post. For more information about how I work with brands take a look at my Work With Me page.