When my first-born started eating solids three years, I threw up my arms and sent this message out into the universe… “I apologize to every parent to whom I have uttered these words ‘Just keep introducing those veggies to your baby [or toddler or preschooler, etc.]. It sometimes take up to 17 tries for children to like new foods’ or ‘You can always find time to exercise’.” Boy, did the universe have some parenting nutrition lessons in store for me.
Thing I Didn’t Know #1
Serving my child a plate of healthy colorful food does not necessarily mean my child will eat a plate of healthy colorful food.
Nearly 3½ years and more than 100 attempts later, my son still will not touch most vegetables and is simply not that interested in food (unless it’s fruit, yogurt or sweets). And, my 1-year-old daughter—who is very interested in food—will not touch most fruits or vegetables. Clearly, my training as a registered dietitian and my desire to fill their bellies with a well-rounded, mostly whole foods diet was lost on them. I thought serving them a variety of fresh and delicious healthy food meant they would eat a variety of fresh and delicious healthy food. It doesn’t. My son handles vegetables as if they are kryptonite and my daughter reaches past the veggies and fruit for protein, cheese and anything starch.
Thing I Didn’t Know #2
Throwing my young children in the stroller to go for a walk is not always as easy as throwing my children in a stroller.
I remember clients telling me that they just did not have time to exercise or that exercising meant sacrificing time with their children. My first response was… “Put them in the stroller and go for a family evening walk. It’s good for everyone.” Yes, it is. But as I have learned, putting my young children in a stroller to go for a walk is sometimes an exercise in patience—a last-minute diaper change, a last-minute potty run, a cup of water for each kiddo, a toy to play with, yadda-yadda—and 15 minutes later means we now have half the time left for our “we-have-30-minutes-before-bedtime!” walk.
Thing I Didn’t Know #3
Waking up earlier than my kids to sneak in an exercise session is just not always (or really ever) possible.
Waking up early is easy for me, and I have always been one of those annoying morning people. One friend used to joke that I got more done on a Saturday morning before 9 AM than most people get done all weekend. But, when your child wakes up at 2 AM and then 4 AM and then 5 AM… well, let’s just say that it’s not so easy to sneak in a 5 AM run or yoga video, mostly because 5 hours of interrupted sleep does not bode well for peeling yourself out of bed early.
Thing I Didn’t Know #4
Making food more playful or shaping it into funny faces or using colorful plates definitely makes food more fun, but it doesn’t mean my child will eat it.
We have tried elephant-shaped grilled cheese sandwiches and butterfly-shaped French toast. We have created “pancake people” with coconut hair and chocolate chip eyes. We have tried Pac-Man waffles eating blueberries. We have tried dried fruit and cereal in colorful muffin cups. The kids love them. They play with their food (which I’m okay with) and laugh about it. And, sometimes they even try a bite. Or two. And, that’s if we’re lucky.
That’s not to say I’m not going to keep doing these things. Because I will. And, I do believe that one day they will eat a vegetable, a fruit, a protein and a whole grain at one meal. And, I will find that balance so that I am getting more physical activity, when they sleep more and are not so reliant on me. And, you know what? I’m okay with that.
TELL US: What are “real life, real food” topics you’d like to see covered here? How do you get a healthy meal on the table or find time to exercise? I’d love to hear from you.