Do you ever whip out some ready made snacks for your toddler? Crackers, cookies, and fruit jelly snacks are just a few. Then one day, your toddler refuses to eat regular food at meals and only wants “junk food”! What do you do? You want your toddler to eat something, but you also don’t want to be feeding him cheese crackers and vanilla animal cookies when the rest of the family is eating baked fish and asparagus.
A dad of 3 kids (under 3 years old) was at our apartment the other day and made a comment: “We hide all our junk food, fruit pouches and crackers are nowhere to be seen in our kitchen.” His comment resonated with me the next few days and then I decided that I would lessen the visibility of ready to eat snacks by moving them to high cabinets (unseen and unreachable for a 2 year old).
When my kids are sick, I am more lenient. Hot pizza counts as an entree, and Annie’s bunny cheese crackers can be eaten leniently all day. But I realized my toddlers were gradually asking and specifying junk food during a meal and even handing me back a plate of freshly cooked gnocchi. “Oh really?” I thought. The next day Mummy will unleash the force of real food!
The next morning, breakfast was yogurt and fresh fruits on a plate (instead of Plum Organics Puffs, which I generally like, but they were gobbling the puffs down by the container each meal!). They look confused and said “puffs”. I handed them each back a plate of freshly cut strawberries and bananas and pointed to the yogurt on their table. I walked away (a few feet away) and after 10 minutes, they slowly started eating the fresh fruits. When they were done (with some help from Mummy with the yogurt scooping), I put away the plates and flatware and they asked me for “puffs” or “cookie”. I said no and distracted them with a jumbo floor puzzle. (Success at breakfast! I thought.)
Then the morning snack around 10:30 am arrived, and I made them a broccoli omelette. I served it to them. One toddler asked for a cookie or “bunnies” (Annie’s bunny crackers in vanilla and cocoa), which I said no to. He went into the kitchen and started looking around (no more boxes of cookies or crackers visible). The toddler then sat back down at the small table and began to slowly eat the egg omelette pieces with his fork. The other kid decides to boycott the broccoli omelette. I take the plate away and he throws a tantrum, asking for some snacks. He runs away to hide in a corner to sulk. A few minutes later, he returns to eat the omelette. I guess hunger wins?
Lunch time is here and I serve them grilled chicken, clementines, and apples. (Now they both refuse the plate and start protesting.) I let them leave the dining area and go play without lunch. “Too bad,” I said to them. About 20 minutes later, my toddlers returned and ate all the food they refused earlier. (Interesting, so survival instinct is in toddlers too.)
The rest of the day and the following day were the same: They first refused the food served, then 20-45 minutes later returned to eat most (or all) of it. I will continue this trend and keep offering them healthier, freshly prepared food. Anyway, they are big enough that their livers have adequate glycogen stores so can “starve” for a bit unless they give in to eating regular food. And don’t 2 year olds still have baby fat?
“Don’t create a monster!” a dad of two preschoolers said, “You dictate what your child eats. It is not as if he or she can go to the store and buy more junk food!”