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Why I let my daughter eat as much ketchup as she wants

Why I let my daughter eat as much ketchup as she wants

“More sauce please”– meaning more ketchup, salsa or other tasty condiment, is a frequent request from my 20-month old daughter.  In the early months of solid foods, she modeled her parents, dipping her sauce with the intended food such as a sweet potato fry. Lately she’ll just go straight to dipping her finger and licking all of the sauce before she eats anything else on her plate.  As a dietitian you might think I’d keep these less than healthy items off limits, but my philosophy is different.  My number one goal is that my daughter builds a healthful relationship with food.

Perhaps I’m so relaxed about my daughter’s sauce fixation because she does eventually get around to eating the other items on her plate most of the time.  There are certainly nights where she doesn’t eat as much as I’d like her to eat.  My mommy instinct is to find something she will eat, but my dietitian inner voice reminds me to let her find her own way.  My role is not to decide how much or which items on her plate she eats – that’s up to her.  My job is to plan the meal to include a variety of healthful items and to set the meal times consistently so she knows when to expect her next meal.  I allow my daughter to trust her instincts, to find the foods she likes, and to know when she’s had enough of them.  Some nights she eats almost as much as my husband.  Other nights she barely grazes her dinner. 

But I don’t stress meal to meal.  I take a longer term look at her overall nutrition.  Did she eat a variety of foods over the week?  Did she make up for a light dinner the next morning at breakfast?  I also take a step back and see that she’s a growing and thriving toddler.  What’s great about this approach is that it removes the stress from mealtimes for both of us.  Instead we have fun at the table and look forward to sharing our meals together.

My outlook goes beyond her toddler years.  I think about her teen years and how challenging it is for any teenager to be happy with her body.  I don’t want my daughter growing up thinking some foods are “bad” and others are “good or that she should be focused on her weight.  That’s something I did for many years.  I had a hard time learning to trust my hunger and fullness signals.  Like many women, I struggled with body image and dieting.  I want my daughter to enjoy food, to know when she’s had enough and to love her body for what it is. 

By giving her freedom to chose what and how much she eats now, I’m helping her build a mindful relationship with food that I’m hopeful will     carry into her teen and adult years.

As mom of a hilarious and spirited toddler, April has a new respect for the many challenges of eating healthy as a family.  Her goal is for every woman and child to develop a healthful relationship with food while keeping things simple.

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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1 Comment

  1. Love this advice because I do stress meal-to-meal. An overall snapshot makes more sense because kids’ nutrition and tastes ebbs and tides.

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