Ahhh the toddler diet.
I say diet meaning the way she was eating. Not diet like counting macros or cutting foods.
We recently did a complete overhaul in my 3 year old’s diet. From organic pancakes for breakfast and mac n cheese (organic LOL) from the box, we went cold turkey. (We have recently started the same with my now 10 month old son who eats anything and everything.)
Not just because she was consuming a mass amount of shit but because her behavior was almost identical to that of a caged animal. Seriously.
She was BITING children. Yes, she was leaving her teeth marks in other children’s’ arms. Talk about the most humiliating text ever received from your child’s teacher.
She was lashing out at home (like full on crying hysterical over nothing), getting hungry at 9 am after eating breakfast at 7:30, waking up from her nap groggy and grumpy (well really bitchy but she is my daughter sooo). The list goes on and on.
I was a teacher for 10 plus years. I have my master’s degree in Early Childhood Education so I have ALOT of tricks up my sleeve. I have taught alot of kids, some with much worse behavior that this and NOTHING was working. Traditionally kids who bite or act out do it for attention or because the are lacking language. Not the case here.
Her behaviors were somewhat out of her control. She has *alot* of words and could not seem to verbalize what was going on.
Enter the diet overhaul.
One day (after a recent text about another “incident”) my husband and I decided it was the diet.
I mean how would we feel if we ate pancakes or french toast every morning? They were organic but sugar is sugar. Yes, carbohydrates are sugars. So a huge amount of sugar first thing in the morning, yeah I would crash by 9 am too.
Of course her blood sugar was all over the place. When we eat processed carbohydrates we release insulin and it causes blood sugar spikes.
Of course she was grumpy and groggy. Her body was a mess. What she was EATING and consuming was causing some of this.
I say some, because she is three and while I like to think I raise perfect children, I don’t. She still has her moments but her behavior has done a complete 180.
What was she eating?
I know you are wondering because if you saw what she eats now you might think “she is just a good eater.” But she wasn’t.
Before doing this overhaul she ate “kid food.” Mac n cheese, pancakes, corn dogs (omg!), fruit, chips. Really, quite embarrassing when I write it out but it is what it is.
So I was that mom saying “my daughter won’t eat THAT.” I get it.
It took a few weeks. She woke up asking for mac n cheese and whenever she saw her grandparents she begged for it. She *even* told them that I said she could have it. WTF? Luckily they called to check.
I get it. Kids are stubborn and when “they are picky” it makes it that much harder. But at the end of the day (and this is going to make some people mad) it is our job as parents to instill healthy habits with and around food.
Does that mean she eats raw vegetables and protein? No but she does eat what we eat. We eat healthy, they (both kids) eat healthy.
It is what she sees. It is now her norm. Same rule applies if I was doing drive thrus and frozen pizzas. That is what they know. That is exactly how I grew up. My snacks where Ruffles potato chips and french onion dip. #Idie
They called me mean. They told me I was being obsessive. My own mother told me “this is what being a kid is about.”
Maybe. But I also know that what we eat directly affects how we feel. Bottom line.
No matter if you are 25, 45 or 3. The food we eat is directly related to how we feel and therefore act.
Have you ever eaten a breakfast full of starchy processed carbs? How did you feel after?
Have you ever gone to lunch and downed a bowl of spaghetti? Didn’t feel so great right?
For us, it is a choice. One that we can make and one that we (most of us) can cope with the consequences.
A three year old cannot. They simply do not have the coping mechanisms to deal with feeling like shit after eating shit. They just aren’t that mature. They do know how to throw a tantrum, bite, cry and yell though. That is how a threenager copes.
So am I mean? Should I be giving her a choice? Should I just let her eat “what she wants?”
In short, no. I am far from mother of the year but it is my job to teach her how to eat healthy but also to control what she eats. That is just the way I see it. I spent my childhood years being overweight and having an abusive relationship with food because I was allowed to eat “what I wanted.”
I still give her choices but it’s more of “do you want an apple or a banana?” So she still gets the choice, the power and the independence but it is guided.
It’s the love and logic way. Guided choices. They need choices but there is nothing wrong with a little guidance. They are toddlers.
So how do I get her to eat this stuff? I hear it everyday.
“I could never do that.”
“My kid won’t eat…”
Every single day I hear these statements. Change is hard. It’s frustrating and can be completely exhausting. I always remind myself of this quote from one of my mentors Jill Coleman.
I get it. I never thought my daughter would come around either. I said those same things because she didn’t even touch what she eats now. But she come around because mommy makes the rules.
I know they are stubborn. I know they like to eat “kid food.”
But that is what they know.
In my recent quest to make this change, I implemented some new “rules” in the house.
I involve her. I take her to the store with me to choose healthy foods. Grocery shopping is something we do together and we make it fun. No, we no longer get the free cookie every single time. Sometimes yes but every trip, no.
I teach her why we need healthy foods and show her everyday why it is important to be strong.
We read about healthy foods.
We started making protein smoothies that were full of flavor and nutrients (some hidden some not)
We are always trying new foods. We don’t do the “clean your plate” but we do encourage trying. You don’t have to like it but you have to try it.
AND, this may be shocking I had to let her get a little hungry the first few days. I let her cry because she wanted mac n cheese for lunch and let her take a nap “hungry.” When she woke up she tried again and my answer was no. But you can have “yogurt or a piece of fruit.”
I stood by it. My husband stood by it. I got the grandparents on board.
We bought a cute (super cool) bento box for school. Her teacher was on board.
It got easier everyday. Everyday she felt better. (And I was drinking less wine 🙂
I did not pin cute shapes on Pinterest and make a bunch of healthy homemade from scratch foods. Nothing wrong with that but it’s just not me.
I go easy when it comes to food. I make it a priority but I do not go overboard because I don’t have the time or have the enjoyment in the kitchen.
I follow the basics that I follow for myself. Every meal has a protein, fat and some sort of fiber (fruit and/or vegetable) Most of her diet is unprocessed. And some of her diet is ice cream and cookies. But not everyday. Not because we were “good” but because we live life. In moderation as always.
So there you have it. The toddler diet and how I did it.
She eats a well balanced diet now and she is much happier. Her tantrums have decreased, she is no longer biting, she has more energy and she is not constantly snacking. We have turned a major corner in our house. Not only has the toddler made huge changes, but my husband has too.
Her days look a little something like this (again, she did not eat anything close to this a few months ago)
Breakfast: A combo of some: eggs, oatmeal, grits, avocado, bacon and fruit
Snack: yogurt and/or applesauce
Lunch: nitrate free deli meat or PB and J rolled up or in a tortilla, tacos, fruit and veggie chips or snap peas.
Snack: Protein smoothie or bowl, Peanut butter with apple or a homemade protein bar
Dinner: what we eat (Protein, veggie, sweet potato, fruit for the kids) Typical dinners at the house are fish tacos, pork, burgers, meatballs, chicken tenders (grilled or baked), stir fry, bison hot dogs
It wasn’t easy and there were days (at the beginning) that I wanted to say eff it and just let her eat the damn mac n cheese. Sometimes it felt easier but I knew my big why. Just as any change we do with ourselves, we have to have a big reason behind it.
This was about instilling healthy habits as her mom. This was about showing her the way and leading by example.
This was about setting the foundation for a life of eating food that fuels her body in a way that makes her feel good.