Monday, July 18, 2011

Feeding a Kid

I made an observation this morning about Lizzie's eating habits--one I hadn't noticed before (though probably should have). She is very much a grazer, meaning she has lots of little snacks throughout the day rather than just eating a few larger meals with maybe a snack or two in between (which is how I've always eaten...and that hasn't gotten me very far).

I had heard somewhere (T.V., magazine, random person, can't remember) that "grazing" is better for you in terms of regulating calorie intake than having just a few large meals. Whether or not this is true, I'm kind of thinking that if this is how my kid eats, I'm not going to mess with it too much, because I realized this morning it gives me way more control over what she puts into her mouth.

Obviously, since she's three, I do have absolute authority over what I serve her at meal times, but she has the absolute authority (in my opinion) over what she chooses to actually eat. If I serve a meal with a veggie, starch, and protien and she eats all of the starch, some of the veggie, and none of the protien, then there is only so much I can do. I'm not going to force her to eat something.

However, during the day, when we're not eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Lizzie snacks a lot. And it's not Ho-Hos and Ding-Dongs. It's fruits and veggies and some starches, and I also try to throw in protiens where I can.

I've realized that when Lizzie asks for a snack (and she much prefers snacks to eating an actual meal), I'm frequently left to make the decision on what she'll eat (meaning, she doesn't request anything, though, of course if she does, I can veto). Sometimes I give her choices between two relatively healthy things. Sometimes I just grab something out of the cupboard or fridge and hand it to her, but regardless of what I do, she generally accepts whatever I have and eats it. And while I worried for a while that she was eating too much, I realized that 1) She's eating, by and large, pretty healthful things, and 2) that while she snacks a lot, it's not as if she's eating full blown meals at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

So far, this whole grazing thing has been pretty willy-nilly, mostly because I didn't really consciously realize what was going on. Now that I'm more in tune (and like I said, I should have been more in tune from the start), I can feed her more purposely throughout the day.

If she continues to graze, it's pretty much a guarantee she won't eat much at lunch and dinner. What I need to do is make sure her series of "snacks" throughout the day are well balanced. It won't matter if I serve well-balanced meals for her if she won't eat them. Also, while she already has very small meals at the typical meal times, I think making them more snack-like will work better. If I'm already feeding her balanced snacks throughout the day, then when dinner comes along (the meal she's notorious for simply not eating), it will be less imperative for her to have a perfectly proportioned meal on her plate. I could use dinner time to make up for whatever I missed during the day.

Now, I realize there are some flaws to this plan. In our culture, this whole snacking throughout the day lifestyle is not exactly embraced (heck, it's not even really embraced in this household). If this is how we consistently feed Lizzie, it's going to be difficult for her to transition into school (maybe), where the day is structured around one snack in the morning and then a big lunch. Maybe it won't even be an issue, but it's something to think about. The other thing is the convenience factor. Is this going to be easy to do, because with me, if it's not quick, convenient, and easy, chances are it's probably not going to happen. I have to find a way to get myself more organized in this regard (this may involve buying some tupperware...).

Feeding my child well is very important to me. I have battled weight issues for most of my life and I would rather not see Lizzie struggle the way I did. I want her to love all foods, not just the sweets and starches, and I want her to have a good concept of portions and to know when to stop eating (all things I struggle with). Hopefully this will help us get on that track.

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