Getting your child to eat right and eat well is one of the most challenging jobs for a parent. Here are some ideas to guide you through this grueling marathon.
- Shop together, cook together
Shopping for food and preparing meals with your child will give you hints about her food preferences. It’s also an opportunity to teach your child about nutrition. What’s more, children may be more willing to eat or try foods that they help prepare.
- Don’t use food for punishment or reward
This is a key lesson. For example, sending your children to bed without any dinner may make them worry that they might go hungry. As a result, they may try to eat whenever they get a chance. Similarly, when foods, such as sweets, are used as a reward, your child may think that these foods are more valuable than other foods.
- Eat together
Knowing they’re going to eat a meal (whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner) with you can be very comforting to a child. Try to make mealtimes pleasant. If mealtimes are unpleasant, children may try to eat faster. They then may learn to associate eating with stress.
- Children mimic their parents
Try to eat healthy yourself. Being a good role model for your child is important. Don’t tell your children to eat all their vegetables if you yourself are eating chips at lunchtime and cola at dinnertime. If you are willing to find new ways to get creative with healthy choices, your child will be more likely to follow.
- Clean your plate’ is a bad idea
Forcing your child to eat will interfere with her learning to listen to her body for full and hungry signals. It’s quite normal for a child to polish off everything on his plate one day and then eat two peas and say he’s done the next. Make sure you don’t make him feel bad for not cleaning his plate. Offer smaller portions (you can always serve a second helping later).
- Don’t Ban Junk Food
This doesn’t mean allowing your child to eat eight candies and four cookies a day. Limiting processed food that’s high in sugar and calories is a good idea. But if you ban junk food, your child might look for it elsewhere. A better way is to let your child have some junk treats occasionally. If they still want more, try to steer them toward snacks such as nuts with raisins.