***This blog has been one of our favorites so we wanted to submit it again. We wish everyone a happy, healthy Thanksgiving and remember…eat your vegetables!
Is meal time consistently the most challenging part of your daily parenting routine? We all face our own version of the inevitable dinner spent debating, often pleading, and occasionally down right begging our child to eat. Despite the trouble, many parents are quicker today to still realize the importance of a healthy diet, but we rarely take the time to implement subtle, simple strategy that can be instrumental in introducing foods to our children successfully.
Top 5 easiest ways to encourage kids to eat a wide variety of age appropriate foods today:
1) Establish that declaring dislikes is a process
Frequently remind Little Jimmy that he must try something 10 times before he can really decide if he likes a food or not. Always encourage smelling, kissing, licking and biting the food, even if they refuse to eat it. Do not penalize your child for not liking a new dish after trying it, but instead praise him or her for giving it a shot, but be sure to add the caveat that they still must try it again next time.
2) Channel your inner Italian… and eat family style
Creating the mindset that you (or another caretaker) are willing to cook your child their own “kiddie” meal will undoubtedly lead to him or her attempting to exercise that power on a regular basis. Do your best to always cook the same meal for the whole family. And even encourage everyone to scoop their own food, as kids love to be “helpers”.
3) Start the cooking show you always wanted anyway
Involve your kiddos in meal prep – pouring, peeling, chopping, ripping, and dicing. The more our kids are exposed to different foods (even if they are not actually eating it), the more they will be inclined to try it. Cooking also gives Little Sally something to be proud of and brag about as the family sits down to eat. Trust me, we know that having a toddler help you prepare a meal is not realistic on a nightly basis, but give it a shot once or twice a week.
4) Remember to have realistic time expectations
The average child takes between 15-20 minutes to eat a meal. Let’s keep to that! Parents, or adults in general, may take longer, but kiddos should not be expected to last as long. We do not want to set the perception that sitting at the dinner table is a penalty.
5) Sorry to ask, but are you setting a good example?
Not breaking any news to other parents here, but sometimes a friendly reminder that we are always being watched, imitated and judged by our children is helpful, especially when thinking about it specifically in terms of diet. If our children watch mom and dad enjoy and verbally approve of a certain food, they are much more likely to give it a shot themselves. Have they picked up on any other bad habits by merely imitating others? No one is perfect, but this awareness alone can be very influential in your child’s diet.
While the evolution of a child’s diet naturally cycles through multiple stages (like all areas of a child’s maturation), it is important that parents monitor what their children are eating. Our natural inclination is to begin taking note of our toddler’s choices upon having a plate of food in front of them, but remember that the art of introducing foods should start long before the first debate begins at dinner time.