Quinn on Nutrition: Feeding kids is serious stuff

February 23, 2015

Oh, the things we learn from children. And Iíve had quite an education this week while babysitting my 2-year-old granddaughter and 10-month-old grandson. Sitting at the table for lunch one day, Frances patiently ate her turkey sandwich and berries while I shoveled baby meat and vegetables into her hungry brother.

"Uh-oh," she said, "I dropped a strawberry on the floor."

Iíll get it for you, I said, as I bent down to pick it up.

"Thanks, Grammy," she said, "youíre a good helper."

Even good kids need appropriate boundaries, Iíve been reminded. Open-ended questions like "What pajamas do you want to wear?" donít really work with 2-year olds. And donít ask her what she wants for dinner, unless you are particularly fond of eggs and toast every night.

Children are good at giving signals of what they really need, however. Pay attention and respect what they tell you. For instance, when baby Logan gets cranky, he is either hungry, or tired, or both. And while heís being fed, you know heís satisfied when he adamantly closes his mouth and turns his head away.

Like other toddlers, Frances is old enough to sit at the table and feed herself. And sheís a pretty good judge of when she has eaten enough. It warms my heart, too, when she finishes her meal and says, "Sícuse, please."

Children learn to like certain foods when they are exposed to them on repeated occasions, say nutrition experts. I carried a bag of baby carrots outside to make a nose for Frosty, the snowman Frances and I had created. Interesting that she wanted to continue nibbling on them when we came back into the house.

For a 2-year old, Frances is no stranger to trying new foods. A friend left a pan of homemade enchiladas and I warmed them for dinner one evening. I suspected they would be too spicy for my young granddaughter; but she stabbed a piece with her toddler-size fork and took a bite. After a moment she said, "Itís ĖĖ itís ĖĖ tasty!"

Right or wrong, our children learn from what we do more than what we say, Iíve also been reminded this week. Sliced apple snacks are just as good for me as they are for Frances. And we all thrive on physical activity. One evening, Grammy was winding down after a dance-a-thon to the music of Frozen. Frances began to gallop around and around and around the living room. And while her captivated brother looked on, she giggled and said, "Come on, Wogan! Itís fun to run!"

Kids are fun but feeding them is serious stuff. These early years lay the foundation for a childís future health and well-being, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Frances drinks milk at meals, for example, not juice or soda. And she is expected to sit at the table for each of her meals and snacks; no grazing allowed.

Last night, after recognizing my granddaughterís great patience with her baby brother, I told her she was a really good kid. "Iím not a kid," she corrected me. "Iím a girl!"




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