Feeding Your Foster or Adopted Child (and Our Favorite Protein Snack Ideas)

Feeding your child from a hard place is, in my opinion, one of the biggest opportunities we have to build trust with our kids. However, for a lot of foster and adoptive families, feeding can also be a huge source of stress! What starts as a great family dinner can end up a lot like … well, …

I see you, mama (and dad!!!). I get it. And I’ve so been there. More times than I care to admit, actually. But hopefully today you will get a little glimmer of hope, and some actionable strategies to help get you on your way to a better path with your kiddo.

Why is this so … hard???

Kids from hard places may have experienced times when their hunger needs were not met. Alternately, there are kids who may have been fed regularly, but not with foods that provided the nourishment their growing bodies needed. (Think soda in baby bottles and such.) Hence, some children from hard places begin to believe, because of early experiences, that adults can’t be trusted to meet their needs for feeding.

For this reason, sadly, many kids from hard places arrive at our doorstep with psychological issues around eating. Which is SO unfortunate, given that eating should be such a pleasurable act. AND a connecting time, as caregivers tangibly show love by helping them get their little bellies full of good stuff.

Our Experiences with Food

Most foster and adoptive parents that I know struggle with things like food hoarding and overeating. I totally get that … after all, if deep in the child’s brain, he/she isn’t sure where and when their next meal is coming from, it makes sense that they would try to get all that they can, while then can.

However, that is not our story.

We have the opposite issue. We actually have a reluctant eater. Some days, I wonder how this active child survives on what seems to add up to about 100 calories.

As a mama who loves cooking, with nourishing whole foods specifically, this has been sooooo hard! (After all, I feel like this is one of my gifts to give my children!) But for a long time, none of my cooking skills or passion were getting me anywhere with my child!!! My biggest concern was that this child is very small, and to be honest, … I think I took it as my personal mission to change that.

So, for the longest time, I would do things like follow the child around the house offering snacks. We would make deals that if “X” number of bites were eaten, the child would be excused from dinner. (Little did we know what a strong will we were dealing with. And then came the power struggle.) Or we would try giving a ton of choices to the child, asking for input on what the child wanted for dinner … then prepare said choice, only to have the child immediately change their mind. <cue dinnertime meltdown>

Mostly this was all punctuated with a lot of crying episodes. (Children AND adults.) And I couldn’t do it anymore. It was about to break me.

Enter the Trust Model

(Affiliate links are coming. If you click through my links to purchase products, I will receive a small commission on your sales. I only promote products if I love and use them.)

So, about 6 months ago, after going through so much stress about feeding and growing my reluctant eater, I finally purchased this book: Love Me, Feed Me: The Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Ending the Worry About Weight, Picky Eating, Power Struggles and More. Guys, it was like a light bulb went on. It all made So. Much. Sense. And I wish I would have read it a little sooner.

Love Me, Feed Me introduces the Trust Model for feeding kids. I won’t get into detail on Trust Model in this post. But if you are struggling with an overeater, picky eater, food hoarder or reluctant eater, its certainly worth checking out here. I actually believe the Trust Model could be helpful for any child, but especially for your foster or adopted child.

What the Trust Model does for us (when we are diligent about it!) is take out the struggle out of mealtimes (for the most part). No more encouraging, pushing, badgering, cajoling, and bribing our kid into eating. Truth: I won’t say that meal time is perfect now … its a process after all! But dinnertime is now a TON better. And we can get through most meals without tears. WOOT

(For more information, the author of Love Me, Feed Me, Dr. Katja Rowell, also has a great website called The Feeding Doctor.)

So, one of the things we have taken to heart from the Empowering Principles of TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) is that of giving protein snacks every two hours. 

“Regularly scheduled snacks and meals (that include protein and complex carbohydrates) are empowering because they ensure adequate, sustained blood sugar levels to support positive behaviors, stable moods, and optimal cognitive functioning including attention and self-regulation. Caregivers we have trained in TBRI report significant positive changes in behavior simply by stabilizing blood sugar levels.”

You can read the whole article here. Would you like to like to see some of the more positive behaviors and optimal cognitive functioning in your home?? WE WOULD, TOO! Here are some things we love …

Our Favorite QUICK Protein Snacks

(in no particular order)

  1. String cheese. We pretty much take this with us wherever we go. (Mr. Bean and I love it, too.)
  2. Hard-boiled eggs. Super easy to make (and peel!) in quantity in the Instant Pot! We do 12-15 at a time. 
  3. Going along with that, deviled eggs. I know this may sound weird but our little kids love them! For a bonus dose of healthy fats, I make them with my homemade mayo (<– click to see a nerdy video of me showing you how easy it is to make) which uses healthy avocado oil. (This is one of my favorite ways to give my reluctant eater some nutrition density.)
  4. Cashews. We have been lucky to find some really good ones at Costco for a while. One time they even had a “honey” version, which were delicious. Cashews travel well and you can tuck a little container or baggie of them into your purse or diaper bag.
  5. Salami. Even my 15-month old loves this cut into small pieces. (Just not the kind with the pepper around the edges.)

In looking at the list, it is mostly savory. We do counter-balance that with a lot of fruit, which our kids also love. But these are things that reliably work for us. And I hope they will for you, too!

Have you dealt with food issues (overeating, food hoarding, picky or reluctant eating) with your kids? What has helped you? Please chime in and help our growing community of parents with kiddos from hard places! (And I love hearing from you!)

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