Updated: Jun 28, 2019
Something I'm sure we've all said to our kids to get them to eat the meal that was put in front of them. Getting kids to eat their food can be tough. Some days they absolutely love the wonderful meal that you planned and prepared while other days they look at it in absolute disgust.
Eating nutritious meals can be a daily struggle. Many of us (including me) have even conceded to the demands of our children and fed them what they wanted despite their meal having no colour, no meat and certainly no vegetables. And let’s all be honest, this is OK once in a while. But if you want to raise resilient kids that thrive in today’s fast-paced world then we need to push ourselves as parents to drive our kids past their comforts of pasta and rice. It is our job to expose them to the delicious, nutritious, and locally-available foods that we have access to.
But let's be totally honest. Getting kids to eat bright, colourful, nutritious foods isn’t going to be easy, nothing ever is when it comes to kids. But I can tell you from experience, with consistency and openness to trying new things you can get your kids to eat the food you have prepared. They may even like it. :)
Here are a few tips that I use in my home that make meal time a bit more manageable (most of the time)
Be an example - Kids look to parents for guidance and are watching our every move. By setting a consistent example of eating healthy foods we are showing our kids that eating healthy is a part of our everyday routines just like brushing our teeth, and taking a bath.
Start early in setting their taste buds up for success - Try eating a variety of vegetables, meats and grains. Kids’ taste buds develop as they grow and by exposing kids to a variety of flavours and textures early on gives them the opportunity to develop their taste buds early which then expands their palate as they grow. And remember just because you don’t have a taste for a certain food doesn’t mean your child will inherit that same distaste!
Add something new to their plates once a week - When trying a new food it takes time to adjust and decide whether they like it or not. The rule in my house is they have to at least try it before they judge. They don’t have to eat the entire portion, they just have to try it. Next time you serve that food again (whether they liked it or not) try cooking it differently by steaming it instead of boiling it or baking it instead of eating it raw. You could even add a bit of sauce or butter to the dish to entice them to try it again.
Get them involved in dinner time activities - Kids love to be involved and help out but often times they are told not to because we are often pressed for time. I get it, been there done that. Although it may seem daunting in the moment, this is your opportunity to say yes, and get them involved. Have them cut or wash the vegetables or have them prepare the condiments that accompany the vegetables. Involving kids in dinner prep gives them a sense of pride and a new motivation to eat those veggies they prepared or served to the family.
Don’t use bribery and dessert as a motivation - Offering dessert as a reward for eating vegetables tells kids that vegetables must be bad because the dessert is the reward so in order for them to get the good stuff they have to eat the bad stuff first. Using dessert as motivation to eat dinner is sending mixed messages to kids at a time when they are easily impressionable. Dessert as a reward also overrides children's natural ability to signal when they are full. Having dessert be the motivator to eat encourages kids to finish their plates even though they may be full so they get to the dessert that was promised. Overriding the bodies signals of feeling full leads to overeating and poor food habits something we don't want to encourage at such a young age.
Give them a say - Once a week they get to decide what the family eats for dinner. Rule here: the meal has to have a vegetable and a protein source. By giving kids some control over what they are eating may just give them the motivation they need to try something new when it was something they planned for and not something that was decided for them.
I hope these tips are helpful at your next meal but if after a couple of months of trying they still aren’t eating what is put in front of them, maybe it is more than giving them a bit of control? Maybe there is more going on that they aren't able to communicate? Perhaps they aren't digesting optimally and eating certain foods causes them pain or discomfort. Maybe they just aren't hungry which could possibly mean they aren't producing the hormone that increases metabolism. This is where I come in. I am here to help you navigate your picky eater and ensure that everyone around the table is eating the delicious meal that you have prepared for them. Click
here to book a consult for you and your child.