My daughter Luísa is now on a yellow and white diet. She’s been only eating bread, rice, pasta, chicken, and potatoes. For fruit, she’s all about bananas (some days she will have three – making my nutritional worry be gone for the rest of the day, I can’t really explain this feeling) and apples. And lots of milk that she serves herself to the point it’s just annoying. The colorful exceptions are tomatoes and watermelon.
As monotonous as this looks, it has foods from the main four groups needed every day: cereals and potatoes; fruit and vegetables; milk and dairy foods; meat, fish, and alternatives. I do get stressed about her diet and think she needs more diversity, more colors. What happened to old spinach she used to like?
But somehow I trust her diet, or rather I got tired of trying to make her eat what she doesn’t want. She manages what goes inside her body in a satisfactory way. She is healthy after all.
Stressing about what the child eats – who doesn’t do it?
Can you picture a more common scene than a parent trying all different tactics to make his child eat? Can you remember seeing a parent trying to give more food than what the child wants or will swallow? Hey, you´ve been that parent! Come on, be honest, don’t you feel frustrated when your child eats less than half a plate?
From what I see, Luísa will change her colorful diet every now and then. Some days she will eat lots of everything, some days it looks like she is fasting, she won´t take anything rather than a snack.
“Aha”, you may be thinking, “So when she doesn’t eat any real food, you do give her some cookies!” Guilty as charged, whoever let their children fast in peace, please throw the first stone (or simply browse off of this page to punish me).
What’s unfortunate is that most parents simply lost the ability to see what’s really necessary to feed their kids and the proper amount.
This is a mea culpa here. Maybe I should talk only about myself, about how I lack the balance to see what’s right and what’s wrong in my own eating habits. But one can learn how to foster eating habits in children from various sources.
A bit of my own eating habits
Well, for one thing, I’m sure. I lost the ability to tell when I’m truly satisfied. I will eat until my plate is clean. I’ve been taught that. The culture behind my actions is too strong for me to get rid of it.
My Italian background tells me to eat everything. Don’t I know that in war times they would each have only one tiny spoon of grated cheese over their pasta? That you can’t throw food away even if that means eating more than you need to be satisfied?
Having to clean my plate and not feel the guilt of throwing away some leftovers have taught me to ignore my body. It makes more sense to me to eat and be extra full than to leave food on the plate and be satisfied (on a subconscious level).
How can then I, after years of not acknowledging my own hunger (I still leave my plate clean after every meal – an indicator that I never hear my body crying out to stop) think that I can sanely indicate what is too little or too much to go inside my daughter’s belly?
I mean, I can guess what she needs, we have studies on nutritional facts to guide us, but I can’t possibly know better than her when enough is enough.
Yet, many parents will make their kids eat more than they need somehow. They’ll use flattery, bribery, force, and distractions of many sorts to accomplish the task of having the kid eat what they think it’s necessary.
I tried all the different techniques to make Luísa eat more. But finally I let her win, she just eats what she eats and I she is doing fine.
I learned to see her diet as eccentric (to say the least) and to respect it. She fills her body with whatever she decides (given the fact that I’ll do my best to give her healthy alternatives) and I trust her choices.
Am I doing the right thing?
I don’t really know. I’m doing the only thing that is possible in our relationship. With my soft way of taking care of Luísa (meaning I’m less firm than maybe I should be) and her assertive personality (probably like all children anyway), that is that for the past two weeks I watch Luísa feed herself with only yellow and white foods. Somehow it looks like it’s just what her body needs because she’s been healthy as always.