The one month of the year that really gets my taste buds salivating is November. It is also the month to pause and be grateful for the people in our lives, food on our table, and the blessings we have experienced during the year, yes even in 2020! If your family is anything like ours, sitting down for a peaceful meal with no complaints is a rare event. Hectic schedules, picky eaters, and parent-child power struggles is real life stuff. A common conversation among parents and caregivers are the frustrations and anxiety around eating. I will cover a few strategies you may try to help your kids make healthier food choices.
- Be a role model for eating. It is important to practice eating slowly, turn off the electronics and noise to avoid distractions, be open and try new foods, focus on foods that are nutritious, and stop eating when you feel satisfied and full or take your first big, deep breath.
- Eating can give you SUPERPOWERS. Make the eating experience fun and kids LOVE superheroes. Use statements like, “Foods that have protein like eggs, beans, and hamburger will help your muscles get strong.” “Eating colorful vegetables like carrots will keep your eyes healthy and create a shield that will protect you from getting sick.” “Eating healthy foods like fish, blueberries, nuts, and avocados will help improve brain power.”
- Get them involved. Last year for Christmas we tried out a subscription box called RADDISH KIDS. We love it and so do our kids. It creates a fun, educational and edible experience. Seriously, check-it out! Our kids have been excited to shop for the food, create, and eat the food.
- Shop with your kids. Let them pick out a new vegetable or fruit. The rule is they can pick something out around the perimeter of the store where you will find healthier choices.
- Prep foods in different ways. Kids may have different opinions on ways they like food prepared. Try prepping the food differently. For example, grated vs sliced carrots or sautéed vs. roasted broccoli. Also, just think of all the ways one can prepare a potato!
- Take the pressure off. We are all “imperfect families” trying our best. As adults we never eat the same amount of food at each meal. Kids may go through stages where they eat more or less than usual. Assume it is a phase if it isn’t consistent. They will not starve. Don’t fall into the trap of preparing individual meals for every member.
- Be a magician. It is amazing what you can hide in a smoothie or sneak into a spaghetti sauce. You do not have to make everything from scratch. Pick up your favorite store spaghetti sauce, then add onions, mushrooms, or even spinach to the mix. Let is simmer and cook. Prior to serving drop it into a blender.
- Be patient and keep trying. We don’t always like things the first time we try them. Keep introducing foods in small amounts. Let them scoop or put the food onto their plate. They select the amount, but they must try it.
By no means are the above strategies a guarantee to easy eating, but it will start to establish good habits. You may find you will start looking forward to family meals. Remember that you are not alone and there are great local professionals and resources willing to help. I would be happy to provide referrals. They may be able to provide a more in-depth evaluation for your family or child. Be well, take care, and be gentle on yourselves. –Melanie Dockter, DC CACCP