How to Encourage Healthy, Happy Meal Times

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In many families with young children meal times can turn into battle grounds, and instead of it being a nice family time it can be stressful and upsetting for everyone. So the first thing you need to know is ….. if your kitchen table is a battle field and most meal times end up with tears and tantrums you are not alone, the same thing is happening in homes all over the country, but you can change this upsetting scene, by making some small changes.

It's really helpful to serve meals at regular times so that children know when to expect food. Children do respond well to good routines.

Make sure that your child does not eat too many snacks in between meals, or drinks, especially milk or sugary drinks which can really fill them up. Get them in the habit of drinking water, or watered down fruit juices from an early age.

As soon as your child is old enough, allow them to be part of the food preparation process. This will take time and patience on your part, as we can do things faster than they, but it is worth it to have a happy meal time experience. Encourage your child to set the table, help with peeling and chopping (always supervised of course). From a very young age my son loved helping in the kitchen. He specifically liked preparing mushrooms, they would end up all shapes and sizes but that never mattered.

Have days in the week when each child in the family gets to choose what meal the whole family will eat, but you must follow through, so sometimes giving them 4 or 5 choices is better than an open choice, or you may find yourself making pancakes for dinner twice a week.

Children only have little tummies and fill up easily. Keep portions small and offer seconds if required.

If you are introducing a new food to your child, for example carrots, do not give them a whole heap of carrots, they are likely to turn their nose up at them and this is when the battles pursuit. Instead give them 3 or 4 carrot slices, they have to get used to the new taste and they will do this over time, and in small amounts. The next time you are serving carrots give them 6 or 7, and so on until they are familiar with the taste and not objecting to eating it. It takes 7 tries for a taste to become familiar.

Only introduce one new taste at a time, persevere with small amounts until they become accustomed to it before introducing the next taste.

Always give your child choices, let them feel that they are in control of what they are eating, but word the choices carefully so that while they are making the choice you are achieving your goal of getting them to eat properly.

Do not ask "Do you want sauce with your pasta?" because that is giving them the option to say no, and the wholesome vegetables and meat are in the sauce. Instead ask "Do you want the sauce poured over the pasta, or do you want it near the pasta?"

My 18 year old son still eats his baked beans on a separate plate to the rest of his food, but he eats them, and they are a low-fat, high protein food.

Do not ask "Do you want vegetables?" ask "Which vegetable would you like today, broccoli or cauliflower?" You never know, they may surprise you and say 'both'.

Sit together and eat as a family. Children learn by example, and most will want to emulate their parents.

As children get older you will find it's at meal times that most conversations take place, and as teenagers it may be the only time they will speak to you about their day. But it has to start when they are young so it is a natural part of their day.

It's great to allow children to feed themselves as soon as possible, again they will feel more in control, although some children prefer to be feed by an adult and eat more this way. Give them plenty of time to eat, try to refrain from rushing them.

If your child says they have had enough remove the food. Contrary to popular belief it is not necessary to eat everything on your plate! They will know when they are full.

Do not get upset with your child if they refuse to eat what you have prepared, sometimes this can be another way for them to receive attention, so it is better to remove the plate and wait until they are hungry enough to ask for something to eat.

Never try to force feed your child. This can lead to an unhealthy attitude towards food.

Never bribe your child with promises of sweets and desserts if they eat up, it's a bad habit to get them into.

Praise your child when they eat well, but do not reward good eating with sweets and treats. A better plan is to have a star chart and when it's filled they can have a reward, maybe a day at the zoo, or a cinema trip movie of their choice.

If you have serious concerns with regard to your child's eating habits consult your GP.

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Source by Vera M Baker

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