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MyPlate? Kids say, “My way!”

Posted by on Jan 2, 2012 in Blog Posts | 3 comments

I originally posted about this on my FB page   and wanted to share a few of the comments. Come join us! Lots of fun tips and support from other parents!

One day last week M ate basically no protein. She did have milk with lunch, but I noticed the absence of protein otherwise. (I am so happy I don’t have to harp on her at every meal to “get” the protein in since we follow the Division of Responsibility. Every meal and snack had a protein offered, but she gets to chose it– or not.)  At dinner, I watched, bemused, while she ate almost two whole pork chops with lots of eye-closing and declarations of delight–lucky there was an extra! It always amazes me that kids are so predictable in their unpredictability.

Children don’t eat like MyPlate, or according to a pyramid at any given meal, but it evens out… Do you see this pattern with your little ones?

The more we try to get children to eat certain amounts of foods at meals and snacks, the more families struggle, and in general, the worse kids eat. It’s why My Plate falls particularly short for me. At least with the food pyramid or food groups, one could say, “Think of the food pyramid, or the food groups over a week or so.” Harder to do with the even more prescriptive My Plate. Oh, and we had veggie soup for dinner… How does that work on a plate divided into squares? 🙂

Here’s how I plan meals and snacks: When I think about what to offer, for snacks I tend to use macro-nutrient categories to be sure I cover protein, fat and carb  (dairy is nice because it often does double duty.  Cheese, milk, or Greek yogurt covers protein and fat…) With meals, I go with food groups: 1 protein, 2 veggies and/or fruit, 1 starch, some fat, offer dairy…)

FB reader comments:

“One day my toddler ate apples for breakfast, sour cream and chives for lunch (literally), brown rice with tamari for snack and roasted chicken for dinner. It was wild. But after three years of this I know I can relax, she knows just what she needs. Her preschool teacher tells me she is the best example of mindful eating she has ever seen. Take that USDA food pyramid or plate or whatever you are these days!”

“She’s following those internal cues before the expectation of “balanced meals” makes its way into her mind. Nice.”

“One day last weekend my daughter ate 4 slices of toast for breakfast. At lunch I made her a quesadilla (a usual favorite) and she had 2 bites, but ate about a cup and a half of cottage cheese. I trust her now to take in what she needs.”

I think this is a simple but significant post. There is an organic ebb and flow to our physiological systems and appetite regulation, particularly in growing children. I see similar patterns with my 6 year old son, in fact there still is the occasional day where he eats very little (calorically) and then he eats a lot on a different day…similar to when he was much younger.”

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  1. Melanie Nelson

    I love the idea of Division of Responsibility – give them what’s good for them and let them choose. And I agree with the other comments – I may not be a kid, but I eat the same way too. I do like having the idea of MyPlate in my head to try to keep me balanced – but looking at the day – or even week perspective may be more practical.

  2. Twistie

    I may not be a kid, but I see myself doing the same things. I’ll wake up one day ravenous for bacon and eggs, and on another morning, all I want is a slice of toast with a dab of jam or butter. One day all I can think at lunchtime is ‘tacos! tacos!’ whereas another day I’ll be well satisfied with an orange or some crackers and cheese, or even just a big glass of V-8 juice. One day I want something sweet with every meal, but most days I don’t.

    Over the course of a few days, I’ll get everything I need, but I don’t stress over meeting nutritional guidelines at every single meal. That’s too much pressure for me, let alone a small child.

    • katja

      THanks for the reminder! Me too! I’ve written about that too. How I will eat a ton of meat one night, and then just want yogurt or something else. I am so grateful that I am listening to that voice in my body, but also that I do have a variety of foods to chose from. I still have that old ingrained voice when I just want meat, saying, “What about the greens?!” BUt I am learning to shut it out and trust that I will want greens soon, and I do 🙂 How exhausting to try to battle a willful child and fight physiology and psychology…


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