A universal concern amongst parents is what their kids eat and how to get them to eat that healthy balanced diet. Often it is difficult to know just how much kids need to eat as their appetites change from day to day or week to week and their food preferences can also annoyingly change all of a sudden too. Sometimes we want that overnight quick fix but in reality it just takes time, patience and perseverance. Here are a few strategies focus on to keep your sanity and help them on their healthy way.
Consider the whole diet
- Think about their eating over the whole day or week rather than for that day.
- Offer 5-6 small meals over the day to give your child plenty of opportunity to eat a range of different foods from the 5 food groups.
- Offer water as the main drink as sweet drinks can fill small tummies up, ruin appetites and natural appetite regulation.
- If they don’t like cooked vegetables try vegetable sticks perhaps with dip as snacks or with the meal, soups, vegetable juice or even fruit as an alternative until they learn to like eating their veggies.
- Always provide foods that kids will eat in addition to foods that you want them to learn to eat.
Eat at the table together
- Mealtimes are not only a time to eat but a time to socialise. Creating happy memories at mealtimes help kids associate eating as being a positive experience. Kids are more likely to try something new when they are calm and in a happy mood at the table. If focussing on food creates conflict best to change the subject and focus on something more fun and interesting.
- Children learn by seeing what is going on. When parents eat with their kids they are showing their enjoyment of foods so kids learn to eat these foods too in time with enough exposure.
Have Fun with Food
- Encourage your child to enjoy interacting with a wide variety of foods. Start a vegetable garden, involve them in meal choices, shopping and cooking.
- Make some quirky creations and invent elaborate stories to capture their interest. Bugs and butterflies, cars and boats, faces and flowers. Chop things up in different ways and just let them play.
- Remove distractions like TV and other screens and focus on the sensations of the meal. Talk about the smells, textures and tastes and why you like certain foods. Tell stories about fond memories of growing, cooking and eating foods when your were young.
- Encourage listening to one’s natural hunger and satiety signals. This is an important skill that is commonly lost when we eat for reasons other than for true hunger. Avoid offering food as a reward, distraction or if they get upset. Use other rewards, activities and comfort strategies. Appetites will change depending on activity and energy levels, growth and how much they have been eating. Trusting your child’s natural hunger is the best way for them to know how much to eat is just enough and to avoid eating more than what their body needs.