When meals are a battleground...
For many parents, mealtimes can feel like a battle. Sometimes it can be hard enough getting a child to eat any food - let alone the healthy stuff! Be consistent, patient and make time for meals with the family - and eventually they should grow out of this difficult phase.
Don’t expect it to be easy
Getting kids to eat well takes determination, but they won’t starve if you deny them a Jammie Dodger. “Unless they’re dramatically losing weight or not growing, they’re getting necessary nutrients,” says Ravinda Lilly, from the National Childminding Association.
Agree with your partner about what’s acceptable, so your child doesn’t receive mixed messages about eating habits.
Make it healthy and on time
Give them healthy snacks and water, at set times. Kids love routine, so stick to yours. If you say dinner is in five minutes, make it five, not ten.
Vary their food so they get plenty of vitamins and minerals. And if you give them something new and they don’t like it, don’t cause a fuss, just try later.
Homemade pizzas are great for boosting their vegetable intake and they’ll love picking toppings. Fajitas is another alternative. “Children are more likely to eat things they’ve helped create,” says Trudi Butler, a parental adviser.
“Eat at the table, with no TV or radio, and don’t have lots of people coming and going,” says Trudi. “Avoid commotion and create a peaceful atmosphere.”
Huge portions of food are overwhelming, so serve up small ones – they can always have more. A serving counts as a handful , for a child it would be a child-sized one.
If you get stressed they might reject all food. As a last resort remove yourself from the room to cool off.
If they play up, unleash your ‘controlled exhibition of displeasure’. And no, it’s not the same as anger – you’re just showing them you mean business.
Eat as a family. Children learn by example and if they see you enjoying your meal they’re more likely to follow suit. If you can’t eat with them, sit with them. If their enthusiasm flags, help them by spooning their food.
DID YOU KNOW?
Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage contain compounds called indole-3-carinol, which increase the levels of proteins that repair damaged DNA. DNA damage is associated with cancer risk.
Don’t threaten something and then give in for a quiet life. Saying “five more spoonfuls” and then only insisting on one just shows kids that you’re a pushover. Always see your threats through.
We all do it, but if it’s over-used your child may come to expect a treat every time they eat dinner, and it can become counterproductive. So save it just for special occasions.
There's nothing wrong with cheating. Mash vegetables into pasta sauces, or blend fruit, yoghurt and cereal for a tasty smoothie.
Tell a story as your child eats, so they take a bite in anticipation of the next stage. Choose bright plates and make pictures out of food.
Dish out praise
If they do well, praise them. If they feel confident and know that you’re pleased with them, they’ll be more likely to do it again.
You may feel like screaming, but stick at it. After a couple of weeks you’ll see a difference, and your child’s health will benefit.