Jan. 2024 | A Guide to Successful Family Mealtimes
by Desiree Lavin, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., RYT200
Avoiding the Struggle
Our kids meals are super important. They provide the nutrition they need for proper growth and health. They can also be very stressful for some families. If this sounds familiar, then you will want to read on because there are some simple steps to make this process more enjoyable for everyone. Mealtime can and should be fun for the family. Believe it or not, your child wants to grow up with eating and will gradually learn to incorporate a variety of foods if you follow these guidelines.. You dont have to force you child to be a good eater when you are doing these things consistently. It will happen gradually but naturally.
Children depend on regular meals to know they will be fed and that adults will take care of them. For your child to do well with meals, you must choose food that you find rewarding to plan, prepare, serve and eat. Your child may not accept what you serve right away, but eventually she will eat most foods. If your child regularly sees a food on the table that you enjoy and you eat, she will assume that at some point, she will eat it too.
Feeding children requires a division of responsibilities and parent’s decide what, when and where their children will eat. When planning what to eat, prepare your children’s favorite foods some of the time, but don’t limit your meals to foods they like. Offer several foods your child can pick and choose from. You are not a short order cook, so don’t make substitutions! Your child may decide to eat or not eat. It’s her choice!
Children decide how much to eat, or whether or not to eat at all. Children are wonderful at sensing their own personal hunger and fullness. This helps them to decide how much to eat and when to stop eating, unlike adults who have complicated their satiety signals. Every child grows differently and every child needs a different amount of food. Some days your child is hungry and some days not. Trust your child to know how much they should eat. You can tell whether your child is eating the right amount by the way she grows. If a child refuses to eat a meal, do not use food as a punishment or reward. Eating a meal should always be a positive experience for a child. To encourage hunger at scheduled mealtimes, avoided unplanned snacking. A good structure for snacks and meals is offering something every 2-3 hours. Remember, children are erratic about their eating. One day she may love a food, then refuse it for several months.They are learning and exploring their tastes and preferences.
You are the gatekeeper of food selection: You decide what food comes into the house and goes on your table. You know more about food and what your child needs then they do. Plan meals that combine liked foods with new and unfamiliar foods
You are the timekeeper for feeding: You decide when to offer meals and snacks. Your child needs regular meals and snacks every 2-3 hours so in between feedings he can get hungry but not starving. Remember, his stomach is small, but his energy needs are high. Don’t let your child beg for specific foods because this puts him in charge of both menu and timing.
You decide where: It isn’t safe to let your child run with food and it makes a mess and interferes with your needs. The table is where children learn to eat best.
It's up to you to make it friendly: Studies show that children eat best when someone they trust sits down and eats with them. Keep distractions to a minimum, don’t nag and have fun!
adopted from Ellyn Satter, 2002