Mealtimes can turn into a nightmare for parents. You’ve spent ages preparing a nutritious meal and here they are- refusing to eat it. You are worried and angry. How can you ensure that your child has a nutritious diet and mealtimes don’t turn into battle zones?
First, relax. Parents can be easily sucked into an emotional battle over food. What is the answer?
There are a few simple rules:
- Do not comment on, or make a fuss over uneaten food.
- Introduce as many foods as possible at a young age.
- Do not to take “no” for an answer too readily.
- Only buy what you want your children to eat.
- Don’t give them too many choices.
- Don’t use food as a reward or punishment for behaviour.
- Don’t give snacks as a substitute for uneaten meals.
All children love attention – and it doesn’t usually matter to them whether that comes from being good or from throwing their food on the floor. So don’t play the game. If they leave their food, clear it away without comment. Don’t try to force it on them or worse still, blackmail them with a promise of sweets, television or playing with a friend. Don’t give them snacks before their next meal – they won’t starve, but they do need to feel a bit hungry.
Don’t give too much choice- your three year old is not capable of making a sensible decision over what he wants for lunch when presented with three options. He will simply be confused. Choices should be limited to something simple such as, “Do you want strawberry or peach yoghurt for pudding?”
Introduce new tastes early. The earlier your child is exposed to a new food, the quicker they will accept it. Children who don’t taste a food until they are over two have a harder time accepting it. Start pureeing a wide range of fruit and vegetables as soon as they have solids. Did you know that research shows that children may need to taste a new food more than twenty times before they accept it? So don’t give up. Just keep putting a small portion on their plates- and clearing it away without comment if it’s left.
Get your child involved in cooking and shopping- and eating will usually follow. Let older children help with choosing fruit and vegetables in the supermarket – all those unusual knobbly fruits and vegetables can be fun – really! Involve them in the chopping, cooking and, of course, the tasting. And remember that vegetables don’t have to be cooked – if your child prefers raw carrots, that’s fine.
Above all, keep calm, be confident – and soon your child will eat anything!
© Glynis Kozma 2007.
Aspire Coaching provides professional coaching across the UK. Glynis Kozma is a qualified, experienced Life Coach with a Diploma in Life Coaching, and is a Member of the Association for Coaching.