Like most households, every family member has a different palate. In fact many pediatricians say food battles top the list of parental headaches.
If you find yourself wrangling with your child over mealtimes, here are a few strategies to help:
If thinking about a weekly menu is too daunting, start with two or three days at a time. A good dinner doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be balanced: whole-grains, rice; fruits, vegetables; and a protein source like legumes. You can also make soups or casseroles ahead of time and then freeze.
Don’t become a short-order cook.
Making two different dinners is allowing a bad habit, and can be exhausting. Prepare one meal for everybody and serve it family-style so the kids can pick and choose what they want. Children often mimic their parents’ behavior, so one of these days, they’ll eat most of the food you serve them.
Bite your tongue.
As hard as this may be, try not to comment on what or how much your kids are eating. Be as neutral as possible. Remember, you’ve done your job as by serving balanced meals; your kids are responsible for eating them. If you play food enforcer—saying things like “Eat your vegetables”—your child will only resist.
Introduce new foods slowly.
Children are new-food-phobic by nature. Prepare them by telling them that their taste buds sometimes have to get used to a flavor before they’ll like the taste. A little hero worship can work wonders too. Afterall, Popeye ate spinach to make him big and strong and Michael Jordan probably does love peas.
If your kids won’t eat vegetables, experiment with dips and raw veggies. Most children like hummus, salsa, and pesto.
Make mornings count.
Most families don’t eat enough fiber on a daily basis, and breakfast is an easy place to sneak it in. Look for high-fiber cereals for a quick fix. Oats are great!
Get kids cooking.
If your children become involved in choosing or preparing meals, they’ll be more interested in eating what they’ve created. Take them to the store, and let them choose produce for you. If they’re old enough, allow them to cut up vegetables and mix them into a salad.
Cut back on junk.
Remember, you—not your kids—are in charge of the foods that enter the house. By having fewer junk foods around, you’ll force your children to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
Having less healthy foods occasionally keeps them from becoming forbidden—and thus even more appealing. Try to maintain a sense of balance and ease, giving them a taste for fresh fruit and veggies from a young age without necessarily demonising the less healthier foods. Realize that what your kids eat over time is what matters. Having popcorn at the movies or eating a slice of cake are some of life’s real pleasures, try to find healthy alternatives to help you along the way.
Be a role model.
If you’re constantly on a diet or have erratic eating habits, your children will grow up thinking that this sort of behavior is normal. Be honest with yourself about the kinds of food messages you’re sending.
Remember, don’t be hard on yourself! Parenthood has enough challenges as it is. Just do your best, and one day your kids will thank you for it 🙂