My daughter came to live with us as a foster child (soon to be adopted by us) when she was two and a half years old. Although I was already the mother of eight children at this time, I had never encountered a child who disliked eating as much as this little girl did. The trauma of what had happened to her played a large part, I’m sure, but still, she did need to eat to live.
This beautiful little girl threw up at the sight of all but a very few foods. Literally. It was a messy, unpleasant ordeal, and for a few days, I was completely baffled how to deal with her. My common sense did kick in, though. We live in America. She was not going to starve in a house full of food. I was bigger and smarter than her – well that last part is debatable…
I decided it was her call whether she ate or not. I would not fix her favorite meal of fake bacon and juice. She needed to eat real food and drink water. So I offered her whatever the rest of my family was eating for dinner. If she began to gag, I pulled the plate away and told her that was alright, she didn’t have to eat. She could go play while the rest of us had dinner. At first she was thrilled with that idea. She hopped happily down from the table and grinning like she had won a huge battle, she ran off while the rest of our family ate dinner.
But after two days of this, she began to get hungry. She would sit in the living room and watch while we ate. She might even come back to the table, where I would offer her plate again. When she gagged, I reminded her that she didn’t have to eat, and she would leave the table, much more slowly this time.
By the third day, tears were in her eyes when mealtime came around. “I’m really hungry.” She told me. “Well, here, baby, eat!” I said, offering her a plate of what we were having. She gagged, and I pulled the plate back. “No problem, sweetie. You don’t have to eat unless you want too.” She left the table, but I knew the battle was almost over. That night, I made the most kid friendly meal I could think of, homemade macaroni and cheese, even though she proclaimed to hate cheese. She sat in her high chair and ate every bite. If I remember correctly, she asked for seconds. The battle was over, and my daughter learned to eat whatever our family had, although eating is still not her favorite thing to do.
As time went on, and I worried over her small appetite, I began to look into exactly what she needed to eat to be healthy. I soon found http://www.mypyramid.gov. This site allows you to type in the child’s age, weight, sex and level of activity, and it then gives you the amount of food the child needs to take in each day. I saw that I had wrongly believed she needed a lot more food than she does. A child, ages three to five years old only needs a very small amount of food every day. Here is an example for this age:
Grains 5 ounces
Vegetables 2 cups
Fruits 1.5 cups
Milk 2 cups
Meat and beans 5 ounces
I began to measure out her food with a measuring cup. This little bit of food listed above, divided over three meals, was not a large amount. Some of the milk, fruit, and even vegetables, could even be blended into a smoothie, which she loves to drink for breakfast.
And of course, another course of action is to use what mothers have always used: no dessert unless their meal is eaten. But using my pyramid’s amounts, it’s not hard for them to not only finish their meal, but to even ask for seconds sometimes.
http://www.mypyramid.gov also has an adult level, and in typing in my own age and other information, I saw that I had been eating a lot more than I needed to eat to stay healthy and strong. I soon had printed out a plan for each member of our family. Measuring out the amount of food we needed each day allowed us to not only lose some weight, but began to save money on our food bill as well.
Keeping our children healthy and strong is the responsibility of every parent. Helping a child learn to eat healthy foods in the right amounts is not hard once you educate yourself a bit. Research, be firm, and raise a happy, healthy child.