If you have been reading my earlier posts, Confessions of a Certified GAPS Practitioner, The Day 4 Detox Pit and Day One of Better Days ....you would be aware that I'm not doing this alone. Little Billie, my not yet 2 year old, is coming along for the ride too. And she's doing really great! That being said, it doesn't mean that we don't have our moments.
As we have moved through the first couple of stages I have realised that I really do have some great tricks for getting Billie to play along and eat the food. Even when there's a tantrum ...or looks like there could be one coming, I have generally managed to work through it. So, I wanted to share this with you. I want to make Living with GAPS easier for you and your young children.
Here are my TOP 5 TIPS FOR HELPING TODDLERS THROUGH GAPS INTRO
- GET TO KNOW WHAT MOTIVATES YOUR CHILD
Is there something in their lives, be it food, TV, outings, or toys, that they will do anything to get? Make a list of these things and include everything ...even the "Non-GAPS Intro friendly" stuff. Billie's list looked a bit like this:
Now you need to refine it. If your child's list included non-GAPS Friendly items, don't cross them off but put them at the bottom of the list. If there is anything else on that list that you simply cannot do a minimum of 3 times per day, put it at the bottom also. These things might include buying a new toy, going shopping, going swimming, going for a drive. You may have noticed that I haven't told you to remove anything from the list yet. That's because not all children are going to be motivated or 'workable', particularly children who experience ASD, ADD/ADHD, sensory processing disorders and these children may require a more 'amended' approach. You also don't want to remove those items because they may become a 'workable' solution down the track when your child is co-operating and is then required to eat more food for rewards that come less frequently. For example, at the moment Billie needs to have 3 mouthfuls of broth before she can have a piece of boiled sausage but, in the future I would like her to eat her whole cup of broth to get to watch 1 episode of Peppa Pig. For an older child, it may be that you will extend this out to wanting them to eat 5 cups of broth for the day to receive a toy or television show that they like or you could extend it further than that again where co-operation equals a sticker on the sticker chart and 25 stickers equals a shopping trip to buy a new toy.
2. DON'T BE AFRAID TO DECONSTRUCT THE SOUP
Young children can be really changeable and a little finicky about their food. Don't confuse this with being picky eaters though. It's normal for a young child to like a food one day and then refuse it the next. You usually find they will come back to it in a few days or a week. It's also relatively normal for young children to like the elements of their meal to be separate on a plate. They like to SEE their food, TASTE their food and PLAY with their food. This is how they learn about flavours etc. So it stands to reason that if we want a child to eat all of the soups involved in GAPS Intro, we may need to adjust the way that we present it.
Broth is an absolute must for each meal. As is the boiled meats and various vegetables. Billie doesn't like the look of soup as such (a conglomerate of veges, meat and broth) but she's quite happy to eat the meat, the peas, the tomato, the pumpkin, the beans, the zucchini (as zoodles ....read on) etc, as long as they are separate on her plate. And then, of course, I need her to drink the broth. So why not 'deconstruct' it. It may be possible to just pick out all the bits of the soup and serve them separately on a plate for your child. Billie isn't so fussed with this idea. In order to make the concessions needed to get her to eat her meal, I need to cook each element separately in the broth. I heat up the broth and gradually work my way through each of the veges one at a time, cooking them for between 15 and 20 minutes each and remove them with a slotted spoon before moving on to the next vegetable. I also boil up some sausages (meat, salt and pepper only) in the broth too for bribes. I store each of these veges in separate containers in the fridge. I know this sounds like a lot of work, so here's my method: I cut up each of the vegetables as I am preparing the rest of the family's meal and put each separate vegetable into a little glass container (that I will keep it in after it is cooked ...saves on washing up) and whilst the regular meal prep is happening I just gradually work my way through the vegetables.
Deconstructing the soup also proves very handy for when your child needs a snack. Stage 1 of GAPS Introduction is notoriously short on snacks LOL. I make sure that Billie (who is not yet 2) has 1/2 - 3/4 cup of broth 3 times per day. But at snack time, she has a variety of different vegetables and some boiled meats, generously salted as she likes it.
3. MAKE YOUR CHILD'S BROTH SPECIAL
Not all kids are going to willingly open their mouths for broth, especially if they have never had it before. Billie likes it as it was her first food but that doesn't mean that she wants it with every meal. In instances like these, we may need extra motivation. For Billie, boiled sausage or peas is the only motivation she needs. Those special foods are ONLY given to her when she has had her broth. The other small concession that we make is that we spoon the broth for her. She generally feeds herself but she doesn't really want the broth so she's decided she's not spooning either, and I can live with that.
So, how can you make your child's broth more appealing. And how do you just get it in regardless of whether they find it appealing or not?
Maybe a special little cup will motivate them. A cup that is only used for broth, that they can sip from.
Maybe they want their broth between meals.
Maybe they want to sip their broth ....maybe they want to spoon their broth ....maybe they want to be fed ....and heck! Maybe they want to drink it through a straw. Play the game but just make sure that you're not being played. When it comes to kids, you really need to pick your battles. These small concessions are nothing if it means getting the broth in so it might be best to just play along.
4. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF ZOODLES!
Zoodles can take your child's mealtime from 'Whatevs' .....to 'Mummy, you're AWESOME. That's pretty cool' (yes Miss Billie did say that in her cutest not yet 2 year old voice LOL)
So, what are Zoodles?? Well they are just spiralised Zucchini! Or any other vegetable that you can spiralise ...carrots, butternut pumpkin, turnips, beetroot. You can buy Vegetable Spiralisers in kitchen shops and online for fairly cheap. The blades are very sharp so I only recommend adults using them. But they turn boring old zucchini into super cool zoodles. I have even made a GAPS Intro Friendly Bolognaise (with LOTS of liver inside) and poured it over zoodles for a very special 'I'm so proud of you eating all of your meals' Spag Bol dinner. She was very chuffed. You could also add them to your child's soup, similar to noodles.
After you have spiralised them, if you are not cooking them in your child's soup, they will need to be cooked in broth for around 10 minutes to soften them and then you can pop them into a container in the fridge ready for snacks and meals.
5. ALWAYS HAVE PLENTY OF SNACKS PREPARED
Toddlers are very changeable. One minute they LOVE peas and the next minute, they apparently HATE them .....yuck!! I find having a selection of vegetables and meats to snack on really helps. And this brings us back to point 2 ....cooking lots of different vegetables and meats in broth and storing them all in little containers to pull together snacks at a moment's notice. Give your toddler some choice but not complete control over the situation. They can pick what they want to eat, but then they need to eat it. It doesn't hurt them to learn the consequences of their choices early and it doesn't hurt them to hear 'No' occasionally either.
6. NEVER LET YOUR TODDLER'S BLOOD GLUCOSE LEVELS GET TOO LOW
Initially, this can be a little difficult to recognise but when it happens, there is no way in the world they will agree with any food you put in front of them and you're in for a real mealtime fight.
Signs of low blood glucose in young children generally include the following:
- Irritablity or grouchiness
- Temper tantrums
- Disagreeable behaviour
Yes, these behaviours can exist even without low blood sugar but generally, if low blood glucose occurs these symptoms will seemingly come from nowhere. They will be perfectly delightful one minute and bordering on disgusting the next.
Kids on GAPS need to eat regularly. It's important not to skip meals and to make sure that you have snacks with you AT ALL TIMES!.
Are you thinking of moving into the GAPS Introduction Diet with your little ones? If you need some direction or you just have a tonne of questions to ask, sign up now for your FREE 15min GAPS Q&A Telephone Appointment.