Have you ever heard another parent refer to their child’s eating as “grazing”? Like, “Oh, she’s a grazer…she’ll eat when she gets hungry.” Or, “He doesn’t really eat a meal, he just grazes all day.”
Grazing is a term we use when you put out food for your child in a place that he or she can reach, and they stop to get some when they want it, typically a few bites and then move on. Grazing begins when children are becoming mobile, so even crawlers can graze! Think about it from a toddler perspective…why would they want to sit still in a high chair for so long, when they can be exploring the world! It makes sense to them, but it’s a hard habit to break.
One of the reasons that grazing becomes difficult is that “snack” type foods are typically less healthy than what is served in a meal. We don’t want them filling up on sugars and carbs. What we REALLY want at this age is to have them trying a variety of foods and flavors each day, in order to combat that natural toddler “picky” stage.
Another reason that grazing is a challenge is that getting your toddler to sit at the table or in the high chair will seem very restrictive to them, and they will resist! Sure, I was one to have dry cereal pieces or yogurt raisins out during the day frequently, but when it came to meal time, we sat in our high chair at the table with the rest of the family.
Behaviorally, it is hard to change the habits of toddlers. They like routine! And it is particularly hard to change the routines of many children with special needs, particularly those on the Autism Spectrum. Try not to let grazing become the mainstay of nutrition.
I know what some of you are thinking…but I just want him to EAT! And that is absolutely valid, so if you are choosing to allow your child to graze, choose healthy snacks! Pieces of banana, cut up grapes (in quarters), and low fat cheese sticks cut up, are all good examples of variety. Don’t get stuck in one food group. What are some other healthy snacks a child can graze on?
Another reason I discourage too much grazing is that children don’t get practice using utensils. These are necessary skills. Save snacks like yogurt for the high chair or table. Or try to only have snack at the table once they are closer to two years old.
If you have a grazer and you want to move it to the table, try just one snack or meal at a time during the day. Add another snack or meal after a few days…until all eating occurs at the table.
What other strategies have you tried to reduce grazing and get your little one to eat in the high chair? Comment on the blog! Share with us!