As the Mom of an opinionated toddler I get it. Meal times can be absolutely excruciatingly exhausting for Mom and Dad. There are many nights that Wiggy and I give painful looks to each other across the dinner table. Meal time is not for the weak.
That said, we hold fast to the belief that kids will eat what is served to them. We also strongly believe that children are great imitators and are always watching the habits, including eating habits of those around them.
Overall our son is a great eater. He doesn’t have a huge appetite, but he will eat almost any healthy food that is put in front of him. That said, if he can choose between french fries and broccoli of course he picks the french fries.
This, in my opinion, is where parents get it wrong and once we go over the edge it’s REALLY hard to crawl back. By remaining steadfast in our quest to get kids to eat healthy food we actually make our lives easier. Yes, there are moments of overwhelming frustration and meals that are refused , but in the end, YOU, the parent WIN and so does your child (even though he or she has no clue yet).
I need to be clear that I’m not bragging that my kid eats all his veggies. Almost Every. Single. Meal. is a struggle of some sort (anyone else have a two year old who is incapable of sitting still?). It would be really easy to microwave some dinosaur shaped nuggets and french fries and call it a day, but that my friends does not serve your family.
On the quest to help you get more nutrition into those little bodies I’ve come up with 5 Tips for helping kids to eat healthier:
1. Limit the options: Keep the junk out of your house. If there are no dinosaur nuggets or poptarts in the house then they will quickly learn that not only will they not get what they’re whining for, but that it’s not even a possibility. Additionally, they won’t catch Mom or Dad sneaking M&Ms out of the pantry and then decide they too NEED some. This is also a great tip for Moms and Dads who are on a quest to eat better. Out of reach, out of mouth!
2. Serve One Meal: Won’t eat it? So what! They’ll be hungry for the next meal. I hate throwing food away and do try to serve the same thing again when possible, but it doesn’t always work. However, the perseverance pays off and eventually they will learn to at least sample everything on their plates. No child ever starved from skipping one meal.
3. Involve them in the process: Even young children can help in the kitchen and at the store. We talk about which veggies we’re putting in the cart and how we will prepare them. Our boy loves to help put things in the crockpot and stir. Allow them to pick out something new to try as well. Things like ugly fruit and tomatoes on the vine are appealing to young children. If you’re able to grow some container plants (we do this with tomatoes) they also really enjoy the growing process. Another idea for young kids is to give them a choice between two vegetables. “Would you like to have broccoli or cabbage for dinner tonight?”. Give them a say in what’s served and watch them gobble it up.
4. Be Consistent: We know that kids are smart. If we start giving in to whining and complaining then what do we get? More whining and complaining. If they know that it’s not going to work and that they are going to sit in their chair until they at least take a few bites of dinner then eventually the fight gets easier. Be sure that you’re also modeling healthy eating. Of course they’re going to beg for a cookie if Dad is sneaking one after dinner making it more difficult to say no.
5. Be Flexible: We eat very clean at home and almost all of Adler’s meals are identical to ours. That said, we do allow flexibility when away from home. When we go out to eat we usually indulge a little so we allow him to order whatever he wants (within reason). Guess what- that usually involves french fries. When at birthday parties, preschool etc. we let whoever is in charge determine what he eats within reason. Our hope is that in the future we will be able to teach him how to practice moderation in life.
On the other hand, let’s think about what we’re feeding kids for snacks and celebrations. No child needs pizza, cookies, cake and candy at a birthday party. Let’s really consider what we’re teaching without using the silly excuse that “you’re only a kid once”. Treats are fine, but can we agree that things are completely out of control these days? When celebration is all about food and sugar at 5 years old is that going to change at at 45? I spend my days working with people that are still trying to overcome these habits in middle age, let’s do what we can to break the cycle.
YOU CAN DO IT! Have more tips or questions or challenges? Post them on our Facebook page, comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Not sure where to start? Tip #1 is the best place.