Learn how to get your kids excited about their meals!
It’s dinner time. You’re having a hard time detaching your kids from the television. You scream and you yell. You threaten to take away their PlayStation 3 (or Microsoft Xbox?). It’s like this every meal time. You wonder if there will ever be a solution to this madness. Don’t panic concerned parent or guardian. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with your children…and it’s not your fault either. You just have to figure out ways for how to lure them away from the distraction and focus on eating. Here are some ways for how you can effectively accomplish this without that big artery popping on the side of your head.
1. Kids are picky eaters by nature. That’s a fact. Some kids prefer ham sandwiches, while others would rather have yoghurt. Some only like the sandwich filling without the bread. It’s crucial to work out which meals will almost always catch and entice their appetite. Make sure you’re familiar with them. But keep in mind when it comes to carbohydrates those with the lowest GI are the best. For some healthy kids lunch ideas click here.
2. Don’t push. No parent or guardian wants a power struggle with their kids. Don’t start a war. If your kid isn’t hungry, don’t force him or her to eat or finish every morsel of food on the plate. This situation can bring dislike and anxiety towards mealtimes. Can you imagine starting that? Allow them to be the one to ask when will mealtime start. Give them small portions only. This will give them the experience of feeling rewarded when they finish their plates, instead of feeling overwhelmed because they can’t eat everything. This will also help them ask for more on their own accord. Have a lot of patience and learn to trust that your kids will do the right thing.
3. Make it routine. Try serving food at about the same times every day. This will train your kids to anticipate and appreciate mealtimes. Avoid giving them juice or milk in between mealtimes. This can decrease their appetite when it’s time to eat at the table. Avoid giving them anything except water (hey, they might be thirsty!) and milk in between mealtimes. Other drinks are loaded with sugar and can decrease their appetite at meal times. With zero calories under its belt, you can’t go wrong with good old water. It’s very useful if your kid has a fever. It helps regulate his or her body temperature. In addition, it prevents urinary tract infections and difficult bowel movements (constipation). Of course, let’s not forget that it quenches your kid’s thirst. Bottom’s up!
Some kids will always want something more than just water. You can add a small amount of fruit juice to a glass of plain water. Just a teaspoon is enough. Voila! Now you have your own version of enhanced or flavoured water.
4. Be their role model. What’s the point of teaching your kids to eat healthy foods when you’re chugging down on that beer (Seriously, how many have you had?), while finishing off that giant bag of Sour cream and onion flavored potato chips and the 4th KitKat bar? Set the example, so that they will follow you. Kids love to imitate. It’s much easier to eat nutritious foods as a family. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see your kids grow up and you grow old with them? Take the necessary steps.
5. Creativity is a big plus. Do you ever wonder why cereal manufacturers (and their advertising department) always come up with funny sounding mascot and cereal names? The reason behind this is because they will always appeal to children (and to some adults, ahem). I’m not saying you have to twist and bang your head just to come up with silly sounding names of foods. Just make sure you involve the key players, the important ones. This will make your kids enjoy eating their food. Cutting up their food into bite sized pieces, various shapes and try making faces with the food on their plate to help ease the eating process. Another good point is to include them in the preparation of their own meals. It may be impossible to include them in the cleanup process, but making them work a little can be fun and rewarding for them. They love mixing ingredients. Do allow them to create a little mess too. They’re kids! What do you expect?
6. Focus on eating as a family. Turn off the TV and any other distractions. Okay, we can allow the (boring?) elevator music in the background while you eat as a family. Many studies have concluded that families who eat together have fewer weight issues. Quality family time can also be a part of mealtimes. Just concentrate on light discussion topics. Nothing heavy.
7. Acknowledge the battle between sweets and vegetables. Children will always choose sweets over vegetables. If you were to offer them sweets in one hand and vegetables in the other, you already know which one they’re going to pick. So what to do? There are many vegetables out there which you can try out with your kids. Take your pick. When you get to the ones they like, stick to them. Include them in meals wherever possible. Now when do treats come in? Before anything else, when it comes to treats, always choose the smaller serving size. No excuses. This will teach your kids that the smaller serving is just as good as the bigger one. Also, look out for naturally sweetened treats such as those containing stevia or honey as healthier alternatives. By the way, the taste buds for sweet foods are located on the tip of your tongue. Just the tip, meaning it should be a reminder for you to get the smaller serving size.
8. Any change should be gradual. Whenever you’re introducing new food, always do it gradually. This means that you should serve it alongside your kids’ favorite foods. This practice will certainly raise the acceptance level with no hassle. Please, show your kids that you eat the new food yourself okay? Lastly, don’t overwhelm them by presenting several new food items on the table all at once. One is enough.
9. Start a food journal. Not for you, nice try. It’s for your kids. This is most useful if you have several children. Tracking down their favorites can be confusing. Each one can have a different favorite meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of course don’t forget about their snacks. In time, you will get used to their favorites. Maybe someday you will not need the journal any longer. Until then, start jotting down. In addition, you can also add your children’s height and weight in the journal. This way, you can track down their progress, which can also be helpful when you visit the doctor.
10. Don’t start a sedentary lifestyle. Involve various physical activities in your children’s lives. A picnic at the park will definitely involve some level of physical activity. Take them to the supermarket when you go shopping for their food. Get them to choose the fruits and vegetables they like, but don’t buy anything you don’t want them to eat. Minimize sedentary activities like watching TV and playing video games. The less time they spend in front of these things, the better for their health and wellbeing. Setting good habits early on can help set your kids up to continue following a healthy diet and lifestyle later in life. If you’re a parent now, there’s a strong chance that you spent a great deal of time in childhood without all the fancy technology which robs children of physical activity. You turned out okay, right?
Do you have any tips when it comes to your kids during mealtimes? Please share it with us. We’re always glad to hear from you.