What’s for dinner? Planning meals with children in the house is not as easy as making a shopping list and compiling coupons. In fact, it can be very difficult to strike the balance between providing meal versatility, nutrition and foods that the kids will actually eat. The problem worsens and eases with the same pace as the tides and from one day to the next, parents often have no idea what to expect. It is difficult to explain why a child will eat mac and cheese for three months in a row then suddenly protest even the thought of it. Getting children to eat their meals doesn’t have to be struggle and perhaps the key in making it a non-issue is the parental state of mind rather than the habits of the children. When all is said and done, children much like dogs will eat when they get hungry enough.
First of all, realize your involvement in this family issue. How often do you give in and fix them something separate, force them to eat everything on their plate, make a big deal about them eating one or two more bites before they can leave the table or promise snacks and dessert only after they consume their dinner (or lunch)? Parents often create mountains out of molehills and young children learn very young that a parent’s desire for their child to eat well is so strong that they are likely to do and offer anything to get them to do so. Thus, the battle of the wills. If parents would relax a bit and realize that a toddler will eat when they are hungry and that they probably have a better sense of what they need than adults do, the issue would be non-issue.
While eggs and bacon may be a breakfast mainstay for you (for most people) just because your child would rather eat a corndog really isn’t the end of the world. The point in offering food is offering wholesome food that somehow fits into the food pyramid and offers them a plethora of choices. Empowering children to make choices and praising them for making good dietary choices is actually an easy way to work with their complicated psyche so eager to manipulate the eating argument in their favor. Instead of asking what they want to eat, offer them two choices they can either have spaghetti with a salad or chicken with a side of rice. Remain firm commencing in the toddler years that what’s for dinner is what’s on the table and exceptions will not be made. Obviously, you can’t expect them to want to eat liver and onions, but as long as your meal choices are sensible, there is a way to get a child to like them. Offer low fat sauces and dips for everything and you might be surprised how quickly they devour their vegetables. Break the rules a bit and offer fruit at dinner as a side dish or pancakes and eggs for dinner. Naturally you should purchase foods that are whole grain, low fat and low carbohydrate whilst providing essential vitamins, minerals and proteins. don’t salt children’s food and they wont acquire the taste for it. After the first year, reduce whole milk to 1% and they will learn to love it. Their palate is often about what they are accustomed to and getting children to eat their meals is about consistency and patience on the part of the parents.
Certainly, a kid would rather have chocolate than green beans. So would most adults, but when it comes to eating three meals a day and healthy snacks, the chocolate shouldn’t even be available. Another way to ensure kids eat their meals is to always serve them in sensible portion sizes. Give them one cookie, a small bowl of chips and limit how much they drink which can quickly fill them up. Kids are often just not hungry and when this is the case, they shouldn’t be forced to eat. Wrap up their plate and stick it in the fridge till the urge to eat hits them. This is one of the reasons that so many adults today are obese. We are each born with a barometer of hunger and it should be regarded as accurate even if it doesn’t make sense to adults. The bottom line is that children are always shifting through different cycles of growth and development, which requires certain proteins and minerals from their food. While it would be impossible to keep up with these needs as parents, the children have an intuit ability to do so. This may be why the macaroni and cheese suddenly loses its appeal, or why your child eats four apples a day for two weeks straight.
Getting children to eat their meals is not a science. Approaching the whole concept of eating should be done with a sense of calm or else parents risk turning it into an issue. Your child will not starve and they will eat. Developing their tastes for vegetables and non-sweet foods is something that is done as soon as they begin solid foods. The premise is the same as why you shouldn’t offer the smashed apples before the jars of mushy green beans. Obviously, the apples will taste better. Rather than demand a child eats everything on their plate, encourage them to try it and develop their tastes by playing a game with them at the dinner table. They will recognize that breakfast, lunch and dinner are what they are and that liking what is served is the only alternative. Once you start the cycle of giving in and feeding the kids separate, you completely make the process dysfunctional.
The reality of the situation is clear. If your kids are maintaining healthy weights and staying well chances are they are getting what they need. If parents offer healthy choices in the home and offer a healthy attitude about eating in general, the kids in the home will develop healthy habits. Some days, meal time will be better than others; but food and meal choices shouldn’t be a cause for discipline and punishment. There are far more pressing things to deal with than the passing picky phases of children. Few of these sparing or stubborn eaters are in at any health risk and ensuring that when they do eat well, they are eating wholesome foods will break the cycle. Whether you offer multiple choices or choose to cook separately every day is entirely up to you, however understand that once you start it it is a difficult routine to turn around. The less energy parents put into the issue of getting children to eat their meals, the less it will be a problem.