When I interact with parents and professionals, I often share a tidbit about my own challenges with nutrition and feeding my four kids. Truth be told, it calms my audience. Everyone struggles at one time or another with feeding kids—and even dietitians have trouble feeding their kids.
Nutrition and feeding children is not easy, nor is it perfect. Even seasoned parents— who have been through the ups and downs of feeding kids once or twice before– run into unexpected nutrition challenges: a child with diabetes or celiac disease, a problem feeder, an overweight child, or a child who has developed an eating disorder. Even the expected blips, like refusing veggies or loving (too many) sweets can change the way we feed our children.
I have had my fair share of ups and downs over the years—one child who barely eked out the growth norms during toddlerhood, another who flirted with iron deficiency anemia, and yet another with food allergies. Yes, these experiences made me doubt myself, and forced me to look at how I was managing nutrition and make changes for the better.
So, yes, even dietitians have trouble feeding their kids—in spite of their knowledge and education in nutrition. Take a look:
Once my son went from purees to solids and he started feeding himself, he’s found a newfound skill of throwing food. Is it that he’s learning the laws of gravity? Maybe. Or he knows he gets a reaction out of Mom when food goes in the air rather than in his mouth. To combat this with our right-handed toddler, we (my husband and I) don’t say “no” or “stop” (we found that it encouraged him more) when he starts throwing food. Rather we give him a “catcher’s bowl” on his tray where he throws or places the food if he doesn’t want to eat it. This also serves as a counting and colors learning opportunity: “Place the green grape in the bowl.” We also have a parent rule: no phone calls when he’s eating. We noticed if we were distracted and not giving him attention while he was eating that the throwing happened more often than not. A ‘Doh!’ moment for the techy parents! ~Katie Serbinski, RD, Mom to Mom Nutrition
My struggles with feeding my boys — ages 8 and 5 — have been some of the hardest parts of parenting thus far. I think a lot of that has to do with being an RD-mom, but any mom wants to feel she’s doing the best for her child. We’ve battled (and still do) everything from extreme picky eating in my oldest to recurring digestive upset in my youngest. I can’t say I’ve come to one big “solution” with either, but I have relaxed a little and realized that “this too shall pass.” When you see a picky eater finally try a new food or you suddenly realize it’s been months since a cry of “my tummy hurts” it’s the little bit of success that keeps you going. ~Regan Jones, RD, Healthy Aperture
My son, who is now 8, has always been a difficult case. What I thought was picky eating, evolved into something much more. We discovered his apraxia early on, which he still is sensory seeking, putting everything in his mouth. He also has ADHD, sensory processing issues and dyslexia. The ADHD meds make it even more fun causing a decrease in appetite. The book, Raising a Sensory Smart Child, was a huge help for me. They have a chapter on picky eating which gave me a whole different perspective. There are some days I am just thankful he eats lunch. I have had to get creative, pureeing foods and adding them in recipes and making nutrition lessons that apply to him. I did “Mealcraft” this year, which is MyPlate, Minecraft style, and I presented it to his class, boy scouts, and school. I don’t push him but always surround him with positive messages about healthy food and present it in a fun way. ~Betsy Ramirez, RD Supermarket Nutrition
I always thought before I had kids that when I did they would be perfect eaters because– hello! –I was a dietitian! Then I had a child and reality hit. My son (who turns 2 in a couple of weeks) has always been on the smaller side, but grew consistently on the growth charts. Previous to about 6 months ago my son was a pretty good eater. Since that time, he has not had a very big appetite at meal times and hasn’t been gaining weight.
He is now below the 5th percentile for his weight! His lack of weight gain has alarmed me but I don’t want to force him to eat. I try to power pack his meals with high calorie, high nutrient foods but it still doesn’t make that much of a difference. I try and try and keep offering him foods, but he just isn’t interested in eating all that much. He is a joyful little boy and seems healthy, otherwise. We recently found out, though, he has swollen adenoids and fluid in his ears, dating back to a cold and ear infection he had back in October, that could be contributing to his decreased appetite. He goes in for surgery next week to remove his adenoids and drain the fluid from his ears with a possibility getting of ear tubes. We’ll see if this helps.
It has been a real struggle for me, especially as a dietitian, to see my child not want to eat and not gain weight. I do not specialize in child nutrition, but I still feel I should be able to know enough strategies to prevent him from dropping off the growth charts. It helps me to know, even as a dietitian, I am not alone in feeding struggles with my child! ~Brittany Poulson, MDA, RDN, CD, CDE www.dietitianbrittany.com
Even though I know it’s normal and I reassure parents of this all the time, I find it so difficult when my son (22 months old) is going through a period of having a low appetite. I have to reassure myself that he’s fine and he’s eating according to his personal needs. Then sure enough, a few days go by and his ravenous appetite comes back! ~Jessica Elyse, RD, Smart Nutrition
My twin girls often go to other people’s houses for play dates and it includes lunch and/or a snack. Often my nanny brings lunch for my kids and the rest of the kids are eating wacky mac or some other pasta dish (or maybe other things that I’m not even aware of). I’m happy my kids like to eat what we have, but I also don’t want them to feel left out even though what the other kids are eating would not be my choice for them.
For the most part, their nursery school has improved the snacks but the teachers are on the older side and give the kids a lot of foods, especially the carb-based snacks. Plus all the baking, birthday treats at 10:30 am, etc. I’ve been dealing with this one all year! ~Jessica Fishman Levinson, RD, Nutricioulicious
I think the most difficult challenge is when your kids go to high school and you lose control. All of the the “rules” go out the window and you have to hope all of the things you taught them come back home. I think the most important thing during the high school years is to have a family dinner with a wholesome meal–with lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables–that reinforces this. ~Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian
Feeding kids is one of the hardest, humbling parenting jobs on the planet. We all have hiccups and challenges in feeding our kids, and we certainly have our worries! Sometimes just knowing that you’re not alone can help. Has feeding your child thrown you for a loop?