Do you find yourself making two or more different meals a night to accommodate your child’s taste preferences? If so, there are seven simple steps you can take to eliminate this time consuming practice while improving your family’s healthy eating habits.
1. Do not make special accommodations for your child—make it a rule that they eat what is prepared for the family. How can you get your children excited about what they are eating? Let them participate! Have little ones mix and stir and add ingredients or even taste test while older children cut, chop, and measure ingredients.
2. Ask their opinion. Offer kids a choice between two or three foods but avoid asking, “What would you like for dinner?” For example, you can let your child decide between apples or oranges or broccoli or cauliflower. When children participate in the planning and preparation of the meal they will be more likely to consume it.
3. Once the food is prepared, continue to build healthy eating habits by setting the example. Get excited about eating the foods you have prepared while you sit down together as a family for dinner. Make dinner time fun family time.
4. Do not assume your child will not like something. Always give him or her a small amount of what you have prepared and encourage them to try it. You can also make questionable foods enticing by cutting them into fun shapes or adding food coloring. If your child does not like a certain food do not give up hope, but rather prepare it in a different way or disguise items such as vegetables in soups or smoothies.
5. Be careful not to let your child eat and drink an hour before meals as this will reduce their appetite. It is important to offer your child one or two nutritious snacks a day, just not close to meals times.
6. Build positive feelings about food. Do not make certain foods off limits. It is acceptable to allow dessert once a week or one small serving of a “treat” per day, especially if your child has eaten well. Never use treats as a way to punish or praise or your child. Also, never encourage your children to clean their plates but rather have them eat until they are full. This will encourage them to listen to their body’s hunger cues and avoid the habit of overeating.
7. Finally, do not delay! Start building healthy habits today! The earlier your child implements healthy eating habits the more likely he or she will stick with these habits throughout their life.
Research Assistance Provided by Sarah Volling