Do your children love being at the table eating a meal with the family?
Or is every mealtime a struggle? Fussy eating is one of the most stressful behavior issues a parent can face. Often, children who aren’t well nourished are likely to be tired, inattentive, less curious and less independent. On the flip side, children who have positive food associations and eat well are much calmer, happier and more independent.
So, how to turn your mealtimes into a happy and nourishing place? You probably feel like you have tried everything, and sometimes, that’s the problem. It’s often best to get back to basics, and just relax and enjoy being at the table together, if something gets eaten, then that’s a bonus.
Here are a few tips to help you enjoy mealtimes again:
- Create a nurturing eating environment. Set consistent meal times and allow some “wind down” time before sitting down to the table (classical music can be a great relaxer).
- Enjoy a range of healthy foods. Cook simple meals that bring out the natural flavor of food. Try and serve some new foods alongside family favourites, they are more likely to try it.
- Offer, and offer again. Research has shown that children sometimes need to try a food 10-20 times before they will accept it.
- Be a good role model. Children are often more likely to accept and enjoy healthy and new foods if they see their parents and siblings enjoy them too.
- Play with your food. Change the way you prepare meals so the kids can spend time (safely) with you in the kitchen. Have an impromptu picnic, or offer smoothies one day instead of fruit.
- Serve food that is nutritious and then let your children decide how much of it they want to eat. If you are happy with all the options on the table then you can give some choice to your kids. Instead of offering dessert include fruit as part of the meal.
- Provide a nurturing attitude at the table. Take some time to make sure everyone is comfortable and has the right eating utensils. Be patient, and use encouraging words towards good eating behavior.
- Establish mealtime routines to limit snacking and help fussy eaters get back on track. Children are more likely to eat healthy food when they are hungry.
Children all have different tastes and appetites. It doesn’t really matter how much they eat, but rather the food that they do eat is healthy and nutritious and the experience is enjoyable. You can find a range of family meals and food for babies and toddlers at One Handed Cooks or join the other one handed cooks on our Facebook Page.