Mental Health

Anchor Foods: Making Sure Your Child has the Best Quality Nutrition with Limited Variety

I talk quite often about short and long-term goals. In the short-term we want our children to be meeting their nutrition needs right now, growing in a way that’s right for them, while long-term goals include thinking about our child adding more variety to their diet.

I have a lot of posts on these long-term goals, such as how we can make small changes to increase variety and why bribing isn’t the answer at mealtimes.

But what about the questions I hear about the short-term: Is my child meeting their nutrition needs? Do they need a vitamin or mineral?

I get asked these question often, especially when kids are more selective. Parents, understandably, want to make sure their child is meeting their nutrition needs. The most common concerns are around protein, vitamins and minerals. It’s always hard to write a post about this, as this doesn’t generalize.

Every child is so different when it comes to meeting their needs. But I want to provide some broad recommendations.

I want to mention here, this blog post is not a substitute for medical advice. If you want specific advice about your child meeting their nutrition needs, let’s set up a time to talk, or find a dietitian or healthcare professional who can work with you to do that.

But, there are ways to think about having the best quality diet with limited variety. These can be referred to as anchor foods. The foods that anchor the child meeting their needs.

Typically I talk with families about having at least one food from each of the following to get their child on the path to meeting their nutrient needs:

  1. A protein rich food: this may be meat, eggs, legumes, beans, cheese; often it’s chicken nuggets.

  2. One fruit or vegetable. The more colorful the better!

  3. A fortified food. Does your child like cereal? Did you know most cereal is fortified with vitamins and minerals? Infant cereal is typically fortified and can be added to baked goods. Like in THIS recipe. This might be a vitamin or mineral supplement, which is fine too.

  4. One calcium rich food like milk, soy milk or another fortified with calcium beverage.

When we think about meeting nutrition needs, we can think about these foods in a child’s diet. They can meet their needs with a small variety, we just have to make sure it’s the right variety.

And if not, we can figure out a way to get them to that path. Need some help? Let’s set up a time to talk and we can make sure your child is meeting their nutrition needs!

My point here is to hopefully have you feel less stressed when it comes to your child eating a variety right now. Yes, we want that for them. Yes, we want them to eat (and enjoy) lots of fruit and vegetables.

BUT we do that by thinking of those goals in the long-term. In the short-term what’s most important is making sure they are meeting their needs right now, and then we move forward from there.

Because what gets kids on the path to trying new foods is

1) Feeling relaxed and not putting pressure on them

2) Focusing on it in the long term: focusing on interactions vs eating the food right now.

Need a little more guidance? Download my free guide: 4 steps to help your little ones try new food, to get you on that path of feeding happiness.