By JoAnne Romanelli, CHHC, AADP
Board Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach
Mealtimes can often turn into power struggles between children and their parents. Many times, out of shear frustration, your child wins. As parents we need to honor our children’s hunger and satiety signals while teaching them healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
Here are common complaints from parents and tips on how to avoid mealtime meltdowns:
My child refuses to eat vegetables.
No matter how many Popeye references you make, your child still refuses to eat his veggies. That doesn’t mean you stop serving them. Small children need to be offered the food up to twenty times for them to feel comfortable eating it. As children get older, their taste buds change and the broccoli they loathed before is now their favorite.
Always put a small amount of a new vegetable on your child’s plate every meal. Too much can overwhelm them so easy does it. Be consistent and keep offering it to your child. Children love anything they can dip so offer a sample tray of veggies with hummus or organic cheese.
My child only wants to eat chicken nuggets.
Steer clear of the fast food trap and don’t default to nuggets or other fast food if your child refuses to eat his home cooked meal. Instead, empower your child by getting him involved in the decision making of meals as well as shopping and preparation. He’ll feel proud that he helped and will want to eat something he created.
Teach your children healthier ways to cook his favorites. Make a pizza night, for example, where your child can create his own pizza. In time your child will see that cooking at home is healthier and tastier than fast food.
My child never wants to eat.
Is your child thriving? Is she in a healthy percentile with height and weight? Seems happy and content? Then she is eating enough for her body. Never force a child to eat. This will conflict with her natural born signals. Using guilt trips like “If you don’t eat, I’ll be mad” will backfire, as your child will associate guilt and shame with food. Your child will not starve. Believe me!
Get in touch with your child’s natural eating patterns. She might be a snacker as opposed to a 3 meal a day child. Honor that and make sure her snacks are high in protein, fiber and healthy fats and low in sugar. Think quality over quantity.
Here are some other tips to help your child develop healthy habits:
Turn the TV off and get rid of other distractions during mealtimes.
- Have mealtimes together and create a ritual around meals like talking about what they learned at school or playing relaxing music.
- Encourage your child to eat slowly, chew thoroughly and enjoy her meals.
- Start a garden and have your child help.
- Lead by example. Your child will mirror everything you do so if you have healthy eating habits, your child will eventually have them too.
JoAnne Romanelli, Getting Real Health, and Nicole Zaybak Drepaniotis and the AFRP are not acting in the capacity of a doctor, licensed dietician-nutritionist, psychologist, other licensed or registered professional, personal trainer or any other certified exercise specialist/health exercise adviser. Our purpose is advising and recommendations.
The information received should not be seen as medical or nursing advice and is certainly not meant to take the place of your seeing licensed health professionals.
The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.