How do you know if your child is a “healthy eater”? Each week, I get the comment, “I bet your kids are healthy eaters”. And depending on the day I get asked, they may or may not be! In fact, just yesterday, my daughter pretty much just ate applesauce and drank milk for her evening meal, despite also having brown rice, vegetables and chicken on her plate.
But there is one thing I remember from an excellent book by Ellyn Satter (registered dietitian, mom and social worker), I got to read in college:
Parents are responsible for the what, when and where of feeding. Kids are responsible for the how much and whether or not they eat at all. What does that mean?
You, as the parent make the decision on what is going to be served.
You, as the parent decide when the meal takes place.
You, as the parent decide where the meal takes place.
It doesn’t mean you cook three different meals for dinner hoping that somebody likes something! Short-order cooks belong at a restaurant not in the home kitchen. It also doesn’t mean that you create a clean your plate club at the table.
What do the kids decide?
Kids decide how much of something they will eat.
Kids decide whether they eat at all.
Don’t fret – kids are born with the instinct to know how much to eat for their energy level. Many studies have confirmed this, especially in kids under 5 years old. Studies have also found when parents try to force or bribe their kids into eating or give kids too much to eat on their plate – parents are actually teaching kids to overeat and ignore internal cues of fullness.
Keep in mind – nobody is perfect and mistakes happen. My first instinct as a mother is to ensure my kids are healthy, so that can make me a little controlling at the dinner table. I try to remember this (I think I need it stamped on my forehead): Every time I try to control or take over my child’s responsibilities around mealtime, I am denying them an opportunity to learn and grow.
That’s the reason we cook one night a week together with the United States of MyPlates recipes. Here’s the recipe from this week, great for Memorial Day picnics.
Adapted from the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Cookbook, recipe submitted by Iliana Gonzales – Evans, of Washington D.C. We did not make our own tortillas for this recipe – as the original states, and we added turkey (instead of cooking a pound of turkey bacon as the protein) and cheese for a source of dairy.
4 whole grain tortillas
4 tablespoons non-MSG ranch dressing (my favorite – Bolthouse Farms)
12 thin slices turkey
4 square slices reduced-fat Colby-Jack cheese
4 leaves of Romaine lettuce
1 tomato, sliced
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 green pepper, thinly sliced
1. Lay out tortillas and spread ranch dressing over tortilla.
2. Layer turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumbers and green pepper onto tortilla.
3. Roll tightly and secure with a toothpick if desired. Cut in half and serve.
Make it a MyPlate meal by by adding fresh grapes and a glass of chocolate milk. Of course, I always like wraps with a few whole grain tortilla chips and pineapple salsa.
MyCart Shopping Tip: Is it possible you can think of your cart like your plate? Fill it half full with fruits and vegetables. Take the kids to shop with you and give them a list in the produce department.
Husband: 4 – It’s a light meal full of veggies.
Adventurous Son: 4 – The mix of vegetables, meat and cheese were a good combination.
Cautious Daughter: 3 – She liked the meat and tortilla the best.
Dietitian Mom: 4 – I would like to see a little more flavor.