We’ve all been there; crazy day at work, kids are tired and acting obnoxious at the same time and it’s time to sit down for dinner. Woah! It’s a stressful affair as the kiddos are challenging the meal provided and are excited about everything except eating their dinner. You are worried they aren’t eating enough and getting the right nutrition and now you feel the need to spoon feed- literally and /or making them a special meal just to get them to eat. All you want is to enjoy a meal with the family in a stress-free environment and talk about the day. Is that even possible?! YES, yes it is! It is ALL possible; I want to share with you my tips on how to set the stage for this to happen 😊

Division of Responsibilities

You as the parent are responsible for what will be served at the meal and or snack, when it will take place and where it will take place. Your child is responsible for what they will eat, how much they will eat and honestly if they will eat at all. Don’t worry they won’t starve. This is empowering our children to listen to their bodies and encourage intuitive and mindful eating. When we force feed our children, we are shutting off that intrinsic ability and we do put them at risk for overeating and potentially becoming overweight. Children will eat when they are hungry. This is all about encouraging a healthy and positive relationship with food. When we force feed, we are causing a stressful eating environment for all parties involved.

What should be on their plate

This is how all of our plates should look at each mealtime in order to provide balance and proper variety of nutrients. Half our plates should be made up of fruits and vegetables, ¼ grains – making them whole at least half the time (more often the better), and about ¼ protein and then dairy to ensure we are getting enough calcium and vitamin D. The diary category is important for all, but especially our growing kids! For all the food groups ensure that a variety is served at each meal and throughout the week.  This is how we ensure we are getting a wide range of all the different nutrients, especially with the fruits and vegetables we are serving. Be sure to limit added sugar, this can sneak into so many things without our knowledge.

How to handle picky eaters

Make mealtime a positive experience by the conversations that are shared.

Remember the division of responsibilities.

Serve the same meal to everyone.  Remember as parents we are truly setting the example of how to eat healthy and what it means to eat healthy. This is where I have to be honest and hold us adults accountable. If mom is drinking a shake for dinner to lose weight, what are we teaching out children about body image, nutrition and having a positive relationship with food? Our kid’s do want to be just like us, they mimic everything, so don’t underestimate that same ability around nutrition and meals. If you show that it’s fun and cool to eat broccoli they will too!

Let your child help make decisions on the meal. For example, say “for our vegetable tonight would you like peas or french beans?” They will feel a part of the process and will be more likely to eat them.

You can also let them be a part of the process in many ways starting from growing the food. When they see the actual “fruits of their labor,” pun intended 😉 they will be so proud and want to eat that food. You can also let them wash the produce, mix, stir, pour, chop, etc of course always dependent upon their age. Safety first!

When trying a new food offer a smaller portion and offer it with foods you know they like. They will be more comfortable, less intimated, and more likely to eat the food. Don’t forget it takes up to 20 times for child to like a new food (yes you read that correctly), so don’t give up after the first try. Try serving the same food in new ways. For example, if its broccoli offer it raw with hummus or ranch, then steam it with garlic, next time add cheese and finally put in in a soup or stir fry. Also, do keep in mind they wont like everything, but they should like most things. Something else to keep in mind with trying new foods is allowing your child to explore that food, ask them about the color, texture, smell, what it looks like, etc. This is making it a positive and mindful learning experience as well as making your child more comfortable with that new food.

What are some age appropriate kitchen activities?

I hope these tips can help you have a more enjoyable mealtime, that is less stressful and more enjoyable! Remember it’s one meal, one day at a time and small sustainable changes for the best success. Don’t be too hard on yourself and be assured your kids will be just fine😊 If you do have any further concerns about your child’s eating behaviors and nutrition status you know who to call on! I would be more than happy to help you in any way I can!

Cheers to a happy and healthy family! Ashley

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