Frustrated parents who struggle with their kids’ eating habits may not realize that part of their frustration has to do with bad habits their kids have picked up…from them! Let’s take a look at some things that well-meaning parents often do that may result in developing unhealthy habits in their kids. Then we’ll look at how to promote healthy habits.
Here are some suggestions:
Dessert as a Bargaining Tool!
It’s so easy to slip into this bad habit. Kids begin to bargain – “Have I eaten enough to be allowed dessert yet?” Then they eat one more green bean and ask the same question. Parents get flustered and frustrated. How much is “enough” for dessert? Kids try to eat the minimum to get to dessert sooner. It just gets to be a battle for everyone. So try not to use dessert for leverage (tips below)!
Clean Your Plate!
In a nation plagued by overeating, this is hardly good eating advice! Let your kids eat until they are full and make sure everyone begins with small portions. You can always get more but you can’t put it back!
Don’t Eat That or You Will Ruin Your Meal!
No parent wants their child to be too full of potato chips to eat his or her dinner but withholding food from a hungry child doesn’t necessarily send a good message. Not snacking between meals can mean ravenous eaters at mealtimes, and ravenous eaters don’t know when to stop. This may set the stage for overeating. To avoid this problem, schedule in snacks (more on that below), or let your child snack on tidbits of the ingredients you’re cooking with.
Serve It Again…and Again
It is not safe to serve kids the same food until they eat it as bacteria can grow on and in food that sits for long periods of time. Nor is it a healthy practice to make kids stay at the table until they have eaten everything as it can add a lot of stress to mealtimes and perhaps result in your child under or overeating.
Baby Food in a Jar
Nutritionists have speculated that tasteless, mass produced baby food which is all the same smooth texture can ruin a baby or small child’s taste buds for many years. It may be true so instead of packing the processed puree into your baby why not just coarsely mash up some fresh food such as bananas, stewed apples or pears and vegetables like carrots and potato and let them eat that.
Promote Healthy Habits
In addition to avoiding the processed baby food it is also a good idea to be proactive in developing healthy eating habits for your kids. Here are some basics.
Allow for Snacking:
Schedule in your snack times and plan for healthy foods at those times. This helps stave off the “can’t wait for dinner” problem!
Eat until you’re full:
Try to take a basic, relaxed approach – here is your food, eat what you want. If your child only eats a little, cover and refrigerate leftovers and break them out when your child is hungry later. Kids eat small portions.
Do away with Dessert:
A straightforward solution to the dessert battle is simply to do away with dessert, period. Just don’t serve it. Another idea is to serve dessert an hour after dinner. Your kids may eat more dinner if they have to wait. They may even forget about dessert!
Another idea is to have healthy dessert as part of the meal. This could include things such as mixed fruit with vanilla yogurt, spiced nuts or low-sugar baked apples. Just serve that part of the meal last and don’t even call it “dessert”!