When I am working with adults on improving their nutritional status, I can always tell if they have children at home based on what they currently eat and their eating habits. You would like to think that the kids don’t have that much of an influence on what we eat, but the truth is that they really do. If you are one of the parents stuck in the rut of chicken nuggets and mac-n-cheese, then read on because this one is for you!
Young kids are typically “picky eaters” because it takes them multiple exposures to new foods before they will eat it. Then, just when you think you have conquered the world and have your child eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, they will shock you one day by not eating it. It can be very easy and give in and start making the kids their meal that you know they will eat and avoiding the whole dinner time drama of bribing them to eat their green beans. Over time, your meals will suffer because you don’t want to make multiple meals so your diet quickly becomes the typical kid foods of pizza, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, and pasta with very little color and variety.
Here are the ways that the food responsibilities should be divided and everyone has the clear roles:
- Decides the times for meals and snacks
- Decides what food choices will be available
- Provide pleasant mealtimes
- Be an example of how to behave at mealtimes
- Decide how much to eat
By providing these regular times for snacks and meals, everyone will get on a regular eating schedule and avoid being overly hungry at meals. When deciding what the food choices will be, the parents should make sure that there is at least one choice that is a food that the kids enjoy and eat. This choice could be something simple like milk or grapes (not another alternate entrée). The other choices at the meal could be new, unfamiliar foods. Don’t force your kids or bribe them with dessert to try these new foods. Instead, set the example by eating the foods yourself and continuing to make the meal a pleasant experience.
By establishing these roles with meals, it can allow for more variety to be introduced and eliminate the battles at meals. For more information and resources about feeding your kids, check out www.ellynsatterinstitute.org . Ellyn is one of the leading experts on feeding issues with relation to kids. In the meantime, take baby steps and try introducing one new food at meals and snacks.