I was ecstatic when the quads were able to start eating purees. I genuinely enjoyed preparing homemade baby food and introducing new foods to their palates. They had favorites, but typically tried whatever landed in their mouth. Beginning table foods was another exciting adventure for us. The quads loved practicing their pincer grasp to stuff morsels of food into their mouths. As babies, they were relatively good eaters.
Then toddlerhood began. Toddlers are notorious for being picky eaters and my foursome was no exception. Just before age two, they became VERY opinionated about what they would or would not sample. We decided early on we weren’t catering to anyone’s whims and we continued to present a variety of food at each meal. We never forced them to eat certain things, but encouraged them to taste since children often need at least a dozen opportunities to sample something before deciding they like it. As our finicky toddlers transformed to preschoolers things went from bad to worse.
As preschoolers, the kids began articulating their strong opinions about food and how it was served. If we so much as cut their sandwich in a triangle instead of a rectangle, someone would burst into tears. If a preferred food didn’t materialize when requested, tears. Dinner became frustrating. After working hard to prepare fresh meals I’d hear protests at the table, tears streamed, and some kids ate nothing from their plates. On occasion, dinner tantrums were severe enough that kids needed breaks away from the table to compose themselves. By bedtime, whining of hunger would begin since no one ate a decent dinner.
After months of this, I decided it was time for a food revolution. I assessed our eating habits and noticed that afternoon snacks seemed problematic. I’m not against snacking, and know that a grazing pattern is good for one’s metabolism (I’m typically a grazer), but snacks were seriously interfering with dinner. I was allowing the kids to fill themselves on salty carbohydrates (e.g. goldfish, veggie straws, pretzels) and by dinner they weren’t hungry. Initially, I tried using small Gladware containers to monitor portions, but things didn’t improve. It seemed that if these kids consumed a single goldfish it would expand and fill their stomach before dinner.
For a few weeks, I put the kibosh on all afternoon snacks. It was a difficult transition. The kids whined after nap as I prepared dinner, but I stuck with it. ABSOLUTELY NO SNACKS!!! To accommodate the change, I started serving dinner about half an hour earlier than normal. The kids were hungrier no doubt, and they ate a little more at dinner. Our problems were only partially solved, however. There was still plenty of moaning and lots of tears about dinner. Our frustration continued, and dinner was a stressful time. Eliminating snacks was clearly not the solution to making dinner more pleasant.
Stay tuned to find out what we did next, and what we did to finally improve dinnertime.
Do you have afternoon snacks at your house? Is dinner time stressful for your family?