Mom 2 Mom: How Do You Get to Get Your Kids to be Good Eaters?

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This is a new series from Charleston Moms that allows our contributors to get parenting advice from the moms who are doing it right . . . and just happen to be their friends! We are looking for moms who are just knocking it out of the park in one area of parenting and asking them how they do it. We hope you enjoy our first edition of Mom 2 Mom!

My Friend Carrie

My friend Carrie and I have two kids who are almost the exact same age. We like the same types of things and have similar parenting styles, but the thing that Carrie is just “killing it at” (that I am totally not) is getting her kids to be adventurous, healthy eaters! I needed to get her tips and tricks. So I asked her the questions I’ve been dying to know answers to since we became friends. Here’s what she told me.

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Carrie Caughey and I have lived in Charleston for the past nine years. I have two kids, aged three and four. I work two days a week, and I am a pediatric speech-language pathologist. I love going to the beach, cooking, running, and boating.

What’s your favorite thing about raising kids in Charleston?

Where do I start? Charleston is such a fun place to raise kids! We enjoy sunset boat cruises, surfing, our pool, and the water parks. I was not lucky enough to grow up by the beach, and I love seeing it through their eyes.

I am in awe of what good eaters your kids are! Have they always been good eaters? I was shocked when I watched them eat salads (!) at Chick Fil A, haha!

Thanks! They have always been wonderful eaters. They were both exclusively breastfed. I waited until they were both at least six months old to slowly introduce food. When introducing food, I tried to steer clear of processed food and pouches. Pouches are a big trend right, but they can actually have a negative effect on teaching a baby to eat. I also followed their lead when it came to table food. If they were reaching for something off of my plate, they got a sample. I was a big fan of using baby-led weaning. As hard as it was to watch, I always let my kids get dirty during mealtime. It was important to allow them to feel the different textures on their hands (and hair ugh!) before it reached their mouths. As far as the salads go at Chik-fil-A, that was easy! Anyone will eat a salad if they know they have French fries or nuggets to look forward to.

What’s the one thing, no matter how hard you try, that your kids won’t eat?

Sautéed spinach and cooked bell peppers. They will eat them raw, but not cooked.

What do you think is the best way to introduce new foods to kids?

Put it on their plates around things they like. Don’t make a big deal out of it. If they don’t like it, don’t show that you are upset or angry. Definitely don’t force them to eat it. If they refuse it during the initial presentation, keep introducing it. Little by little they will be accustomed to it and hopefully, even try it.

I also totally admire how much your kids help in the kitchen! Can you tell us a little more about the tasks that you have them do? I assume it also makes them excited about what they are about to eat if they help make it!

We have a helper chair, and I cannot recommend it enough! Because of it, my kids are tall enough to help at the counter, and it keeps them secure. They really enjoy participating in the kitchen. They will cook rice, chop vegetables, flip pancakes, set the table, and the list goes on. When they were really young, my kids used to play food while I cooked in the kitchen. They have learned how to handle a hot stove and be careful with cutting. I believe that helping cook our meals together visually prepares them to eat it. We do not stop at just cooking though. My kids also love helping in the garden. It keeps them motivated to eat raw vegetables, and it’s also a great activity.

Mom 2 Mom: How Do You Get to Get Your Kids to be Good Eaters?? (With My Friend Carrie!) Charleston MomsWhat are you the proudest of that your kids love to eat?

Edamame. It’s so entertaining to watch them eat it from a pod. I’m also proud of this tofu “sausage” that they eat. It’s bursting with flavor; they always ask for seconds.

Do you have any rules in place around food? Like “you have to take at least one bite” or “you have to eat ______ before you have _______”?

I try not to force them to eat something they do not like. If I really push something, they have a tendency to go into shut-down mode. I do try to stay firm on finishing their plates before they get more of something. For example, if they want more salmon, they have to finish their peas. I try to keep calm and say it very matter of factly. My kids are like sharks: if they sense weakness, they will push me to waiver. I work on staying strong and not losing my cool when it comes to this.

What are your go-to snacks? I need some new ideas!

I’m not the biggest fan of snacks. Growing up, my siblings and I were presented with three meals a day. If we did not eat breakfast, we would have to wait for lunch. I really admire my mom for doing that, and I incorporate it with my own kids. It also makes my life SO much easier. I’m not a vending machine. Imagine a kid not eating snacks and then having dinner. I guarantee you they will eat their whole dinner. Occasionally, if they REALLY want a snack. I will give them the food they didn’t eat from the previous meal.

Any other advice/tips/hacks to share?

Yes, just a few things. Stay away from juice, soda, and milk. If my kids are thirsty, they drink water. I have observed children gulp down a full glass of milk, juice, and even soda, and then refuse to eat their dinner. I think that in today’s society, drinks have become a meal replacement for our children. Unfortunately, these drinks are lacking in adequate nutrients for a growing child. Do your own research and become informed on the nutritional value (or lack of) in milk, soda, or juice. If you do, you will find that these drinks are high in sugar and calories, but low in vitamins and minerals.

I also cannot stress enough the importance of exercise in young children. Get your child out and moving to increase their appetite. Swimming, biking, and just going for a walk are my favorites to work up an appetite in my kids.

Mom 2 Mom: How Do You Get to Get Your Kids to be Good Eaters? Charleston MomsMy last tip is to eat as a family. We try to have family dinners as much as possible. Turn off electronic devices and lead by example when it comes to eating. Our children are constantly watching everything we say and do, so why should eating be any different? Parents need to eat their vegetables too.

I also need to mention, that as a speech therapist, this is not how I would implement therapy. There are so many more factors to consider during feeding therapy. As a mom, this is how I approached feeding with my own children.

Thank you, Carrie! I love these tips. Step 1: I’m going to try to cut out some of those dang snacks! 

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Allison McCleary
Allison escaped the frozen tundra of Minnesota for the sunshine and beaches of Charleston a little over two years ago . She now lives with her husband, toddler, and American Bulldog on James Island and is expecting her second boy in October (she's totally outnumbered with a house full of boys)! Balancing working from home for the business she owns with her husband and raising two boys under 2 will be Allison's newest challenge! She loves exploring Charleston with her little family and writes about their day-to-day adventures on her blog, Happy Little Honey.

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