Gerber Memorial nutrition class helps families eat healthy together and minimize mealtime chaos
FREMONT – Mealtimes with toddlers can be a messy challenge.
With the right strategies, however, parents and caregivers can make sure their little loved ones get nutritious food into their growing bodies,said Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial registered dietitian Jennifer Osantowski on Wednesday at the third and final Early Childhood Nutrition class at Tamarac.
“Trust your child to eat enough,” Osantowski said. “Don’t force a child to eat more food or something they do not want. This encourages them to listen to their internal cues. If a child rejects a food, don’t give up after one try. Introduce it again at another time.”
Some steps to make lunch or dinner less stressful and more nutritious for parent and child include:
Osantowski also said that parents should continue to expose their child to new foods and foods cooked in new ways because it can take 15 or more tries for a child to accept a food.
Kendra Hornbrook of Hesperia attended the class with husband Jake Hornbrook and their nearly-2-year-old child, Opal. The reason: Opal began to be pickier about her food, Kendra Hornbrook said, as Opal’s dad fed her quinoa and chicken soup, which Opal enthusiastically tried.
Picky eating is a challenge – and a natural stage of development, Osantowski told the 10 participants in the class, which addressed nutrition for children ages 1 to 2 years old. Children are practicing their newfound independence, and they may only eat one or two foods for days, even weeks, she said.
“This is OK,” Osantowski said. “Just keep providing nutritious meals, be an example for your children because they learn from what they see at the table, and provide food from all food groups. What’s important to remember is that parents provide structure and support, and children learn to choose what and how much to eat based on what the parents provide.”
Osantowski also discussed safety steps that can prevent choking, such as always being present during mealtimes and cutting food into half-inch pieces. She also reminded parents and caregivers to provide foods with key nutrients young children need to grow, including iron, vitamin D and fat.
She advised parents to provide full-fat foods for children and allow toddlers to grow up to get the bodies that are right for them.
“One child’s body type is going to be different from another child’s body type,” Osantowski said. “We should be mindful of that.”
At the end of the 90-minute class, participants enjoyed a healthy and nutritious lunch of chicken and quinoa soup and a spinach, strawberry and almond salad, both of which they also brought home with them to enjoy.
The Early Childhood Nutrition classes return in May. The first class, for pregnant moms and newborns to 6-month-olds, is May 1; the second for infants 6 months to a year old is May 8; and the third, for toddlers 1 to 2 years old, is May 15. The May classes all start at 6 p.m. and will be held at Tamarac.
Registration is required because of limited space, and child watch is available on site. People with transportation questions or who want to register can call 231.924.3073.