I recently asked a group of parents what they find most difficult when it comes to feeding their family healthy meals and snacks. The main issue that arose was getting them to eat anything!
I for one know how frustrating it can be slaving away to prepare a dinner only for you to put it on the table and hear “I don’t like it”. In our busy world it’s so easy to run on autopilot, so have a read through my top tips and see if you can apply any of these to your dinner time routine.
Here are my top 5 tips to help you towards a more harmonious mealtime with your family.
Snacks On average children need 2-3 small snacks through the day depending on how active they are. But do not give a snack when dinner is only an hour away, this spells disaster! My daughter will swear blind she will eat all her dinner if I just give her x, y or z because she is STARVING but will be guaranteed to say she’s “not hungry” once I dish up dinner. Good snack suggestions include fresh fruit, dried fruit, cheese and a cracker, rice cake, milk or a yoghurt. How much you give for a snack is important. A portion for a child aged 1-4 would be ½ an apple or a tablespoon of raisins, a portion of cheese would be 1 triangle. You don’t need to be giving anything fancy.
Take away the pressure at dinner time You’ve lovingly prepared a nutritious meal, only to lose your shit when your kids say no. You’re tired after a day at work and so are the kids after school, so we all need to take the pressure off a bit. Give smaller plates and smaller portions. As a rough guide a portion is what a child can fit into the palm of their hand. If they are hungry after that you can always give more. Never tell your children they have to eat everything on their plate.
Turn the television off And any other distractions for that matter. If you can, eat together at the dinner table, even if you’re not having your dinner at that point have a light snack for yourself. This promotes good eating habits, social interaction and your kids are likely to eat more as they aren’t distracted.
Don’t expect your kids to eat something totally new and like it! It can take kids (and adults!) up to 15 attempts of trying something new before liking it. Serve a little bit of the new item on their plate along with something they like and say that you just want them to try it. If they don’t like it, don’t make a fuss, simply say that you appreciate them trying it and move on. Keep doing this with different foods (this might be something you are having for part of your dinner later) and your children will begin to be more receptive to trying new things because mummy isn’t going to get angry if they don’t like it, which takes us back to point 2 – take away the pressure.
Involve your kids in mealtimes It’s helpful to use a weekly meal planner and keep to theme nights: Monday is pasta night, Tuesday is pizza… you get the picture. Make sure at least one of the nights is based on something your child really likes. Involve them in choosing the meals and this way there’s no surprises. Where you can, let them get involved and make food fun. For example, on pizza night you can lay all the different ingredients out for them to assemble themselves. This also works on husbands.
When it comes to partners and grandparents being clear and concise with expectations is the best you can do. Ask partners to keep negative comments about food away from the dinner table. Kids are so receptive to these things so it’s best to keep those comments away from little ears. And as for grandparents, I don’t think you can ever stop all the chocolate and sweets but my suggestions would be to provide snacks that you find acceptable, to let them know how you are feeling but also to remember that no food is BAD. Everything in moderation, and just so you know for 1-4 year olds one chocolate biscuit is a portion, so maybe let them know that’s all they can have, everyone’s a winner.
By following these tips and planning you should be buying less food and have less wastage which will also help you to keep food costs down.
These suggestions are suitable for most families, but I do appreciate that some of you will have fussy eaters that this just won’t cut it for despite your best efforts. I work with families to help resolve these issues so please get in touch via by contact form to book in for a free 15-minute phone call to see how I can help you.