There is always a great deal of interest in what the girls eat, maybe because toddler nutrition can be tricky–what’s safe, nutritious, AND tasty–but it’s a question I frequently receive. In an Instagram story when I shared the girls signing for another banana, I was asked what their limit was. There seemed to be a bit of surprise when I said there was none or, ultimately, as it’s a counter food, when the bananas ran out. It seems strange to put a limit on nutritiously dense foods, like putting a limit on the number of peas they can have at dinner. I try to keep fruits and vegetables available until they run out, but a little more on that in a moment.
We are very French in the way we treat meals. They eat what we eat, or rather what I eat. I eat a mostly vegan diet and wanted to feed the girls the same, for ethical* and health reasons, until they were able to decide they wanted something different. (They aren’t able to consume certain foods for health reasons, but other than that, they are welcome to have whatever is being served.)
If we’re serving something for a meal, there’s no limit if it’s on the table being served. “If it’s on the table being served” is the key. There have been instances that something has been requested for extra but there are already plans for it due to meal planning. However, there are items that are always out, the counter fruits and veggies, for which there is no limit, but when they are gone they are gone until we are able to replenish them.
If we have out-of-season blueberries and oatmeal we may not always be able to offer more blueberries at that time so that there are some for the next breakfast. My children will eat PINTS of blueberries in one sitting…pints. That’s not always something we can accommodate financially. When they are in season and our farm’s market can’t rid themselves of blueberries fast enough, they are absolutely welcome to eat to their heart’s desire.
When asked for more of something that isn’t an option I explain why and provide other options. “We are going to save the rest of the blueberries for tomorrow’s breakfast, but I can make you more oatmeal with bananas, you can have a banana, I have some frozen mixed fruits, and I have bread.” (I always include a safe food as an option–it’s usually bread.)
They also aren’t required to eat everything that is served and I’m always trying to observe and meet them where they are at with needs. Right now the foods that get consumed are those that can be eaten with hands–a sensory-seeking need. Rather than fight that, I follow it and plan meals and foods accordingly. Pierogies, tacos, traditional African dishes served with injera…my husband and I are not suffering while we ensure our children are eating.
While I’m far from perfect, I always try to provide a balanced meal, and with every meal, I always try to provide a discard bowl. This is a bowl where they may place items they don’t wish to try, have tried, and don’t care for, etc. Sometimes the discard bow gets attention and foods are taken and consumed from it later, when other foods have been eaten, and other times not. It comes down to choices and lack of pressure for them. Our dining room table isn’t a battleground. When a meal is met with, “I’m not eating that!” It’s all good. “That’s okay, you don’t have to.” It’s not because I don’t care, but rather because I do enough not to make food a problem.
*Our food ethics may not be the same, and that’s okay. Yours may vary from mine and my children’s may vary from mine as well, which I respect. The same with foods that are healthy, they vary from body to body. I can’t have gluten, but my daughters can as what causes distress in my body doesn’t in theirs. I have a friend who can’t digest fruit and a lot of vegetables–this is why I’m always mindful and try to avoid saying “healthy food” and rather focus on nutritiously dense.