Dinner drama: 5 ways to improve toddler meal times

afitmess
March 29, 2017
A Fit Mess

As most parents know, feeding toddlers can be challenging to say the least. I have to laugh when I think back to all the times when the girls happily ate the blended green beans and pea pudding I placed before them as babies. Matt and I used to get a kick out of how much they ate and the variety of foods they enjoyed (sardines were always a family favorite).

 

Now that my kids are older (the girls will be 4 this summer!) they have more defined preferences and tastes. As such, it can be difficult to get them to try new things and to incorporate the same kind of variety in their diets as when they were babies.

 

But as we all know: toddlers are completely independent, know exactly what’s best for them, and can make their own decisions. Period. Or as Madison likes to inform me, “No. I won’t listen to you, mommy!”

 

All joking aside, toddlers can be quite finicky when it comes to food, making their meals difficult at times. Over the last several months, we’ve incorporated a few things that have worked really well for our family and has made meal time easier and more enjoyable. I wanted to share these tips with you in case you, too, struggle with this as a parent.

 

I should probably premise this with stating that I am absolutely NOT an expert at parenting (far from it!) and some days these methods work and sometimes they don’t work at all. But we try to stay consistent with our practices and have found that they really help. As always, I would love your thoughts and suggestions. I want this blog to be a place where we can learn from one another (myself included!).

 A Fit Mess

1.  We sit together during our meal.

While this doesn’t always happen, we try to sit at the table for most of our meals. The girls and I have breakfast together almost every day (Matt leaves for work before any of us are awake), and they eat lunch at school most days. Dinners are spent eating together as a family. Some days Matt works late and will eat after us. Other times the girls are hungry as soon as I get home so I’ll prepare their dinner early and sit with them while they eat.

Why this is important to us: I don’t have many memories of eating around the table as a family when I was younger (mostly because my mom got sick when I was still little and my dad was trying to juggle everything). My dad cooked as often as he could, but we also had relatives make meals for us, various caregivers tended to us, and we ate a lot of prepared food. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I truly appreciated the act of sitting around a dinner table. Food connects a family in many ways. It’s a chance for us to come together and enjoy a meal. It allows us to talk and to share details of our day. It’s extremely important to me that we continue this tradition as a family so it’s definitely a priority in our house.

2.  Our kids eat what we eat.

For too long I was preparing items that I knew the girls would eat and got into the habit of making them “their” meal and then preparing something else for myself and Matt. I hated when I made them something and they wouldn’t eat it. I’d then run through the alternative items I could make them. The problem with this (other than the fact that I felt like a short-order cook) was that the girls weren’t being exposed to different tastes, textures, and smells. Not to mention all the vitamins and nutrients they missed. Sure, part of the issue was that I let them run the show. I worried they would go hungry so I tried to make them things I knew they’d actually eat. I eventually realized how crazy this was – my kids would NEVER go hungry and I needed to show a bit of tough love. Nowadays, the girls eat what we eat and I try to limit the items I prepare for them.  Sure, there are things that I make for them that I don’t often eat with my meals (buttered toast, popcorn, pasta) but for the most part they eat some version of what we are eating (protein, veggies, and starches).

 

3.  No toys or TV at the table.

Like a lot of toddlers, my kids can easily be distracted. While we try to limit their TV time in general, we definitely don’t let them watch TV during meals. And toys are to be kept away from the dinner table until they’re done eating. Meal time is not play time. This keeps the attention on the meal and the focus on your food. I’m trying to work on this as well since I often eat lunch at my desk and will inevitably skim emails and read while I eat.

 

4.  Keep portions small.

I used to load up the girls’ plates with a variety of food at once and I’ve recently transitioned to a different approach. Now I give them a little bit of food (protein, starch, and veggie) and I’ve noticed that they end up eating more than if I piled the food on their plates. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why this works so well, but I think having a smaller portion encourages the girls to eat. And if they finish something and want seconds then I will give them more. Having smaller portions is also helpful if I want them to try something new (a vegetable, a tiny bit of meat, or something I haven’t prepared in a while). Additionally, I think sometimes my kids can get overwhelmed with choices if there is too much on their plate. And limiting the amount of food is a good way to check whether they are actually full or just eating for the sake of eating.

 

5.  Save fruit for the end.

My kids are fruit fanatics. If given the choice, they would eat fruit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ve started to wait until the girls have eaten their protein and sampled their veggies before offering fruit. This encourages them to fill up on the important foods before going for the fruit. I know some parents who recommend serving food in courses so that their kids will at least try certain items, but Matt and I don’t eat like that personally so it doesn’t really make sense for us to introduce that style in our home.

 

Additional notes:

  1. We are snackers. The girls really like to graze and I think this is typical toddler behavior. If the girls say they are hungry, I will always offer them food. I know some parents discourage snacking, but I don’t agree with this. Kids are extremely active, have fast metabolisms, and process food differently than adults. Their nutritional and caloric needs are not the same as ours.
  2. Some days my kids will have less or more of an appetite. This is something I try not to worry about. As I said above, my kids will never go hungry. I don’t force them to eat if they don’t want to and I don’t deny them extra servings (within reason).
  3. We talk a lot about what food does to/for your body. We really enjoy describing the benefits of the food we eat. For example, we’ll say that meat contains protein and makes you strong or sweet potatoes give you energy and vitamin C. Before eating something the girls will ask us, “Is this good for your body?” which always makes me smile.

 

I would love to know what your thoughts are on this. Have you made any changes to meal time that has helped?

Wednesday things

afitmess
March 8, 2017
A Fit Mess

Hey there. How are things? I don’t know about you, but I think this week needs to just go ahead and end already. I am dragging because my sleep hasn’t been that great. I’ve been going to bed absolutely exhausted and then once I’m in bed it takes me forever to fall asleep. My mind bounces around and I just can’t relax. I also keep waking up at night – at least once – drenched in sweat. Ugh. Not sure what is going on here, but I hope it passes.

 

Anyway, since it’s obvious I am having trouble focusing, I thought I’d share a few of the random thoughts that are occupying my mind lately. Hey, maybe this will help me sort things out! As always, I love hearing your input and suggestions. Please feel free to share your thoughts below.

 

What’s been stressing me out:

 

Summer camps

Boy, do these fill up fast! Everyone I talk to about summer camps tells me we should have lined ours up back in January. [Insert panic attack now.] I have a few ideas in mind, it’s just a matter of sitting down with my calendar and contacting places. For some reason, it just feels like such a big project. And summer seems so far away (especially when we are expecting snow this weekend! Whaaaat?!). Anyway, this is definitely a priority for me!

A Fit Mess

My schedule

I’m still adjusting to a new morning routine with the girls and an abbreviated work schedule. I can’t seem to find the right rhythm and I end up scrambling and rushing from place to place. I rush the girls to school, race to work, and then run around trying to catch up on everything before I leave. Getting out the door in the morning seems to have gotten harder. I’m trying to make things a bit easier in the morning by prepping the girls’ lunches the night before, packing my gym bag and the kids’ backpacks ahead of time, and laying out all of our clothes the night before. I’m hoping these changes will help a bit. I had such a good routine before so maybe it will get better with some more practice.

 

What’s bringing me down:

 

Unplanned expenses

I really, really hate these, don’t you? I recently broke the frames of my glasses and brought them to my optometrist to be fixed. The technician told me that my frames could not be repaired so I had to buy a whole new pair of frames on the spot. And this woman was so unfriendly and seemed to be bothered that I even showed up that day. I ended up buying the only pair of frames I was told would fit my lenses. I couldn’t even see what they looked like before buying them – I popped them on later that day when I was at the office. I think they’ll do, but man what a b that lady was!

 

I also got a big, fat bill from a physical therapy appointment I had back in October. At the time I was told it would be covered by my insurance and now I have a $600 bill! I must have called Patient Relations half a dozen times to get the issue resolved and no one will call me back. So frustrating!

 

Annnddd, I have to get braces. My bite keeps shifting and I’ve been chipping my teeth so my dentist recommended I get Invisalign. Honestly, it’s probably a good idea since I have chipped my teeth three times in the last six months. I thought I was done after my retainer days in highschool.

Right?

 

Okay…I’m sounding a bit like Debbie Downer so let’s shift to some more positive thoughts.

 

What I’m enjoying:

 

CrossFit

I am going on my second week of CrossFit and so far it’s going well. I am learning A LOT and liking it, but I can’t wait to feel more comfortable stepping inside the box. I feel awkward doing some of the more complicated movements (can we just talk about how difficult snatches are?!), but I’m sticking with it and taking it slow. Right now I’m trying to focus on form and getting the movements down. Luckily, everyone has been super nice and encouraging. The coaches have been very helpful in class. What an awesome community!

 

Orangetheory

Still really love going to the group classes at OTF. I love the intervals and the fun atmosphere. If they had childcare I’d be there every day (hint-hint, guys). If you haven’t tried OTF then you need to get on that (first class is free!).

 

Blogging

Recently I mentioned that I was going to start cutting back on blogging for a few reasons. Mostly, I was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed with creating so much content. And I also felt a bit burnt out on writing. Once I took the pressure off and spent some time away from blogging, my thoughts shifted and I felt better about everything. Ironically, I started writing more. Taking some time off – whether from writing or another hobby, can really energize you. I’m feeling really excited about blogging these days. I love having a hobby that is so expressive and enjoyable. And I am so happy you are here, too.

 

What I’m looking forward to:

 

Mexico

In just one month Matt and I will have our first real vacation together since becoming parents. While we have done a few overnight stays here and there, we haven’t been away, away in a loooonnng time. I cannot wait! And I’m so grateful that my mother-in-law is able to come and stay with the girls while we travel. We couldn’t have done it without her help!

 

Spring

I’m not a cold weather person. I need the sunshine and the warm temps. I love the springtime when you can spend tons of time outdoors and the flowers are blooming. We love this park near our house because there is a beautiful rose garden we can walk through and explore with the girls. There’s also a playground and tons of picnic area to enjoy.

 

What’s got you down these days? Any positive thoughts to share?

 

 

10 things from the weekend + last week’s workout

My weekend started off on a rough note after I fell down the stairs on Friday. I was busy telling my kids to go slow and watch what they were doing and I ended up tripping and falling down about 10 stairs. I scraped my ankle and bruised my arm, but luckily I’m okay. Geez! What a way to start the weekend. Fortunately, things got better and I thought I’d share a bit about our weekend.

10 things from the weekend

 

1.  A brisk stroll to the playground. Friday was a teacher workday so I was home solo with the girls. We took our babies to the playground for a little fun.

2.  Coffee-work date Friday afternoon. After playing with the girls for most of the morning, Matt came home and I dashed away to Starbucks to work for a few hours. Even though we have a home office I sometimes work better when I am out of the house.

3.  Teacher work day = early Wine Time. Just FYI, it starts at 4:00 pm on those days.

4.  Waking up on my own Saturday and Sunday morning. Lately Ashlyn has been getting up at 5 am and asking me to make her a smoothie. I think she must hear Matt in the morning as he leaves for work. The last two days I got up on my own and enjoyed some alone time.

5.  Orangetheory class. I just lovvvveee it.

6.  The great outdoors. Even though it was slightly chilly out, the sun was shining and it was beautiful weather. We rode bikes and walked to the playground.

7.  Sunday morning massage. Much needed after my week.

A Fit Mess

8. Lots of downtime, coffee, and slippers. We had zero plans this weekend and it was all I wanted.

A Fit Mess

9. Exploring another playground (that makes three trips this weekend). #parentlife

10. Planning and preparing for next month’s trip to Mexico. This spring trip can’t come soon enough!

Last week’s workouts

Orangetheory, CrossFit, and a home workout. I am really glad I was able to make time for a workout just about every day.

Monday

CrossFit

1) 3 back squats EMOM (every minute on the minute) for 10 minutes (I used 75#)

2) 5 minutes AMRAP:

30 double unders (I did 60 single unders)

10 push presses (I used 35#)

Rest 2 minutes

5 minutes AMRAP:

60 single unders

10 hang power cleans (I used 35#)

Tuesday

@ home workout

3 rounds:

  • DB plank row to push up (12 reps, I used two 15# DBs)
  • DB curl to overhead press (12 reps)
  • low ab pull ins (12)
  • low stair jumps (50 total)

 

3 rounds:

  • DB reverse lunge (12 each side, I used 15# DBs)
  • S/A tricep extension (12 each side)
  • high rows (12 total)
  • high knees (50)

 

9 rounds – 1 min each exercise:

  • squats to low bench
  • decline mountain climbers
  • bicycle crunches

 

Wednesday

Orangetheory

Strength floor:

  • 8 S/A reverse lunge to thruster, each side (I used a 25# DB)
  • 8 S/A bent over low row, each side (I used 25#)
  • 8 S/A dumbbell chest press (I used a 30# DB)
  • 8 dumbbell pullover (25#)
  • 200 meter row
  • 20 bicycle crunches
  • 20 atomic mountain climbers
  • 20 dumbbell torso twists

 

Repeat entire sequence 3-4 times

Thursday

CrossFit

1) 2 full snatches EMOM for 10 minutes (I used 45#)

2) 3 rounds:

2 minutes burpees over the bar

1 minute toes to bar

1 minute thrusters (I used 45#)

2 minutes rest

Friday

Orangetheory

Saturday 

Orangetheory – 3G class

Sunday

REST – massage

 

How was your weekend? What’s something you enjoyed?

 

5 ways motherhood has changed my views towards health and fitness

afitmess
March 2, 2017

 

Becoming a mom shifted my perspective about a lot of things. Like other parents, my views evolved and I gained new insight into many areas of my life. In particular, my views toward health and fitness changed quite a bit when I entered parenthood. Today I thought I’d share some of the ways my outlook on exercise and health has evolved and what I’ve learned along the way.  

 

1.  It’s about quality over quantity.

I used to spend over an hour at the gym most days (much of that time doing cardio). I thought more time spent working out meant better results. And I felt that if I couldn’t dedicate at least a full hour of time then it wasn’t really worth it.

 

After the girls were born, my time became limited. My workouts needed to be short and smart. Because I didn’t have a whole lot of time, I needed to be more thoughtful and focused with my exercise. I soon realized it’s more important what you do than how long you spend doing it. A twenty-minute workout can be just as effective – if not more – as an hour spent in the gym if you know how to properly structure your workout. I’m learning this right now with CrossFit. An eight-minute workout can seem like an eternity!

2.  Strength training yields faster results.

When I started to consistently strength train, I couldn’t believe the change in my body. It’s absolutely true that increasing your muscle mass will give you the lean, toned look you desire. Strength training increasing your metabolism, burns fat, and improves bone density. Using free weights or even your own bodyweight are great ways to achieve results. HIIT and Tabata workouts can be short and effective. Plus, they are easy to squeeze in during naps or when you only have a small amount of time to spare.

 

3.  Maintaining my health has new meaning. 

Now that I have children I am motivated even more to stay in good health. I’m not just exercising for my own benefit—I’m doing it for my family. Growing up without a mother was really difficult for me and it’s something I never want my kids to experience. Maintaining my health will help ensure I get to be there for the girls’ future and watch them grow up. I never want to miss a moment!

 

4.  Exercise makes me a better parent and person.

Unquestionably, exercise makes me a happier, more focused, and relaxed person. As someone who has struggled with anxiety my whole life, I’m certain that exercising has been key to maintaining my emotional health. Working out helps me balance stress and gives me an outlet for releasing tension and anxiety. I have also noticed that I’m able to process and work through issues during a run or workout. All of this translates into being a better mom, wife, friend, and person.

 

5.  It’s not a big deal to miss a day or two.

As a parent you can never anticipate the random things that will come up during your day. Your child gets sick or has to go to the doctor. A nap is missed or your sleep was horrible the night before. Sometimes you have to miss your workout and that’s okay. Obviously, my family is my first priority so if I need to skip a day or two then it’s no big deal. That’s life and you just have to roll with it.

 

I would love to know how your views towards health and fitness have changed over the years. Share below.