I Failed The Food Pyramid

Christine Sweeney, LICSW Program Manager, Parent Connection, BIDMC

APRIL 05, 2017

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Our last posting addressed the question of starting solids. This posting, I’m fast forwarding to the older baby who’s no longer interested in the purees, and is moving towards “regular food.” If you are one of those lucky parents whose baby happily eats everything you prepare from steamed kale to smoked salmon, good for you, you can stop reading. If however, your child is not eating what he’s “supposed” to be eating, according to the food pyramid (not even close), and your heart starts to race and you break out in a sweat every time you read a parenting article or blog about fabulous healthy kid friendly recipes, read on.

The purpose of this entry is not to educate you about healthy foods and how to prepare them. I am not a nutritionist, and there is a wealth of information/resources already available (www.healthykids.org). I’m going to assume that you are already well aware of what your child should be eating. You’ve read all the resources and the fact that’s he not eating what he should is what’s sending you over the edge. I’m here to talk you down.

Let’s start with this basic fact. You cannot force your child to eat. That’s a truth worth repeating. You cannot force your child to eat.

You can encourage healthy eating by preparing healthy meals, by modeling healthy eating and by limiting the availability/access to unhealthy food. But at the end of the day, if your child refuses to eat the food pyramid you’ve put on his plate, you cannot put food in his mouth and force him to swallow.

It is not helpful to “punish” children by making them sit at the table until they’ve finished eating their vegetables. It is not helpful to “bribe” children but offering a sugar dessert for finishing their healthy food. Stories about children in other parts of the world that do not have enough to eat is also not a useful strategy. What I do suggest is, as hard as it is, try not to make a big deal about what your older baby is or isn’t eating either positive or negative. 
This is not easy. We worry that bad things will happen if our baby/children aren’t eating right, and diet is important. Providing children healthy fresh, not processed foods is important. Limiting sugar, salt, chemical intake is important, but if your child doesn’t eat the food pyramid every day, you are not ruining him/her. You are still a good parent.

If you’re concerned with your child’s diet, talk with your pediatrician. She will likely reassure you that when looking at nutritional intake, you evaluate over the course of several days, not what your child eats in one day. Older babies and toddlers are typically inconsistent in their diet, and some days are better than others. She may suggest a vitamin supplement, or not. I don’t know if my son needed the vitamin supplement for his nutritional needs, but I found it worked wonders for my anxiety! 

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.