Create family routines: Schedule regular family meals as often as possible. Although this is frequently the only time many families sit down together to discuss things, avoid letting the dinner table become a battlefield. A good way to start this culture in your home is to have everyone complete the following sentence “The best part of my day was…” Mealtimes can also be a great way to get your children to help out around the house by involving them in meal preparation, setting the table, helping with the dishes, etc. Creating these routines will eventually lead children to do these things without being asked, like washing hands before dinner and clearing the dishes when they are done. Whether involving them in the meal preparation or engaging in conversation at the table this time to connect is invaluable and should be protected from outside distractions such as phones and television).
Tricks for gaining cooperation from your picky eater:
Set a good example: It is important to start early and expose your child to a variety of foods from a young age to help him/her make healthy and balanced choices. Just as they learn to walk and talk by watching you, they will emulate your food choices
Let them help: Allowing them an opportunity to help cook teaches them about cooking and the work you do regularly. They will also take pride in choosing and preparing the food, hence more likely to eat it.
Mix in the good stuff and offer variety: Kids are born with a taste for sweet. Therefore, fruits and vegetables with high sugar content, like berries and carrots, don’t take much to get used to. Bitter vegetables, like spinach, however, might take longer. Although your child may resist many things you offer, continue serving a variety of fruits and vegetables. If they don’t go for it, try again.
Homemade pasta sauce can hide a multitude of tastes – add in tomatoes, mushrooms, finely chopped carrots, peppers and anything else your child usually rejects and blend it to a smooth purée. Smoothies are a great way to get fruit into a child who won’t normally eat it. Add some finely chopped fruits to gelatin salads, add pureed sweet peas to guacamole, and serve tiny vegetables such as baby carrots and baby corn with appetizer dips like hummus or ranch dressing. Use pureed fruits in desserts, muffins or fruit breads like banana, pumpkin, pear, or apple muffins, and stir pureed corn into muffin batter. Sneak in finely minced vegetables added to hamburger patties or turkey burgers and your kids will be none the wiser. Casseroles made with pasta, cheese, and sauce can easily disguise finely chopped vegetables tuna or chicken.
Educate them: Kids grow rapidly during the tweens. Their vitamin and mineral intake needs to grow too, so ensuring proper nutrition is vital. Explain how certain vitamins boost the brain cells, build muscles and give them the energy they need to do the activities they enjoy.
Avoid the power struggle: You are less likely to have a child dig in their heels if they are more involved in the meal planning. You may ask your child to pick some healthy sides to go with the meal or allow them to choose from two options you have pre-selected. Allowing your child to choose two or three things to buy as options for breakfast and lunch is a good way to ensure that they will eat it when you aren’t there to watch. Don’t force your child to clean the plate but instead encourage serving a small portion the first time and then taking more later if desired.
Schedule times for snacking: Most people are hungry between meal times. Offer your children small healthy options to snack on during predetermined times. Snacking should stop one hour before meals.
Junk food: Avoid starting the culture where dessert is expected after every meal. Try to ration your child’s intake of sweets (except on rare occasions like holidays and parties) and make sure he brushes and flosses his teeth after sugary treats. Remember that most sodas, fruit snacks and juices are also high in sugar and should be limited. Encourage your child to drink water often.
Take a break: No one feels like cooking every night, or eating leftovers several days in a row. Every so often going out for dinner is a nice treat. It is also a good opportunity to teach your children how to use table manners and behave in public.
Time constraints: Many families struggle with time management due to busy work and activity schedules. If you are struggling to find the time to eat healthy try crock-pot cooking or prepare meals in advance then freeze and reheat as necessary.
We have become a very fast paced, overscheduled society. Fast food is a norm in many households due to the convenience and time it saves. Dining together as a family has become a thing of the past in many families. Taking the time to choose healthy foods and finding a time to eat together are two ways to show your family that you value them.