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If you are what you eat, he must be a train

Like any toddler, Monkey’s favourite foods are cheese, chips, chocolate and cheerios (CH-ch, CH-ch… Get it? Sorry…). I’m pretty sure he would live on those foods alone. He can recognize chocolate even if the packaging is something he’s never seen before. I have no idea how he does that – its like he has choc-dar or some superhuman sense of smell or something. He can pinpoint a block of chocolate buried under a mountain of old cereal boxes in the back of the pantry.

I’m a fan of Ellyn Satter’s Child of Mine, and we try to follow the idea that the adults choose what, where and when to eat, and the child can choose whether they eat, and how much. I try to offer somewhat balanced meals, with a carb, protein and a fruit or vegetable every time.

For a while, everything was going pretty smoothly. But when Monkey’s cancer was diagnosed and we were spending a lot of time in hospital, things got a bit wacky. The hospital dietician told us that of course they recommend healthy balanced diets etc etc, but really under the circumstances if the only thing he wanted to eat was hot chips, then we should feed him hot chips. Especially at his age, it’s important that they don’t forget how to eat, and chewing is important for the development of muscles which are also needed for speech.

So I’m trying to get my mojo back on offering him regular, balanced meals. I do find this theory somewhat complicated by the fact that Monkey still doesn’t have predictable nap times, so deciding when to feed him is a bit of guess work. Plus when he was stationary it was much easier to cook nutritious foods for him!

And now that he uses the sign for “eat”, sometimes we just go find something when he asks. He also knows that the pantry and fridge are where the food is kept, and will go stand in front of them when he wants something.

This means that often we will open the fridge for him and let him point out what he wants (usually cheese. Sometimes butter…). It’s not my ideal, but now that we’ve started it, its a hard habit to break!

To be honest we’re pretty lucky though. I don’t want to jinx it or anything, but at the moment Monkey still eats some fruits and vegetables. He loves carrots and cucumber, apples and watermelon, rockmelon and blueberries. Sometimes he’ll eat these in preference to anything else. When he had tonsillitis he ate nothing but watermelon for dinner (and the nappies that resulted were truly special). And sometimes he’ll lick all the butter off his crackers and then eat it straight off the knife.

He loves pasta, especially spaghetti bolognese, and will shove it into his face in double fistfuls. This is totally adorable, and makes the biggest mess ever.

But like me, he doesn’t seem to be a fan of breakfast. I keep serving it (most important meal of the day and all that) but he rarely eats more than one or two mouthfuls, if that. Could be because he wakes up with a belly full of milk though, and I’m not trading the extra sleep for anything!

So I really do feel like he’s listening to what his body wants, and I think it’s important for us to support that. But I also don’t want him banging on the pantry every 5 minutes begging for food (at the moment he only does it when he’s hungry, but I hear it’s a thing). How do we steer away from letting him choose when, and back to set meal times? How do I find time to make him more nutritious options? Do I even need to? I don’t know!

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6 comments on “If you are what you eat, he must be a train

  1. Ashley
    December 4, 2012

    My son is 2 1/2, and it sounds like we’re in much the same situation. What and how much he eats varies widely from day to day. Somewhere I read that rather than look at each day, if you look at a week of a toddler’s diet, and that balances out, it’s probably okay. I totally understand the choco-radar, though! Some days he’ll eat blueberries, turkey, or yogurt and granola like they’re candy. Other days it’s just mac and cheese, regular cheese, and oh yes, the butter. He does love to eat straight butter! Some days he loves apples, other days not at all. He has gone through a whole plate of asperagus on several occasions, but now he won’t touch it. I figure he’s doing okay, since his growth has always been right in the middle of the charts, he has tons of energy, and he’s generally pretty happy most of the time. I think at least one of those things wouldn’t be true if he weren’t getting what he needs nutritionally over the long run. I just try to keep healthy foods as options, restrict the truly junk foods that come into my house, but still let him splurge on chocolate or whatever once in a while–just like I let myself do. So I am no expert by any means, but it sounds like it’s working for you, at least for now. If you need to set more regularly scheduled mealtimes in the future, then you can do that, too. We’re working on that a little bit–he doesn’t eat much at dinner, but then wants to eat when it’s time for bed. So I’m trying to help him with that balance a little bit…

    • boringyear
      December 5, 2012

      When he was born and for as long as I kept an eye on it, Monkey was 50th percentile. But when his cancer was diagnosed he was 10th percentile (and I felt bad for not having kept track of it), so I guess we got a bit nervous!

      How far before bed do you have dinner? Monkey’s dinner is very close to bedtime, because we eat as a family but he goes to bed quite early. I serve dinner at 6 and he’s usually in bed by 7, if not before.

  2. glumbunny
    December 5, 2012

    I’m a nazi about the “meals at regular times, no grazing’ thing, but I guess I’m a nazi about a lot of things… It sounds like he’s doing really well, on the whole. My guess is that you don’t need to worry about the nutrition thing at all–you offer a balanced meal, you’re done. As for the grazing, do you believe in the logic for not doing it? If so, be a nazi. If not, don’t worry! Those are my two cents, anyway.

    And isn’t watching a kid go all face first into some spagetti a glorious thing! I love it, though the clean up–blech.

    • boringyear
      December 5, 2012

      Yes, watching him eat spaghetti cracks me up every time. And cleanup is a nightmare! But worth it.

      Thank goodness for dogs though, I don’t know how people keep their floors clean without them!

  3. Pomegranate
    December 6, 2012

    They are not the same child, then. Mine also loves chips, but is ambivalent about cheerios and cheese and strongly dislikes chocolate.

    • boringyear
      December 6, 2012

      Dislikes chocolate? What oddity is this???

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This entry was posted on December 4, 2012 by in baby talk, feeding time.
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