You are probably thinking, “What in the world does sheep have to do with the steps to helping your children enjoy eating, right?”
Well, it’s interesting. Every day I walk. It’s a time I spend on me to reflect and regroup. There are these beautiful reserves near my home where I get lost in the beauty. To my surprise this week there were sheep along my path. On my way down the path, I got to observe them frolicking in the field.
However, on my way back up the path, their care takers had shown up to feed them. I watched the most marvelous thing, from an acre away these animals in a single file line rushed to be fed.
It got me thinking, what if our children had such a positive drive and excitement at the thought of eating? What if they rushed to the table excited to eat and see what was being served? Could just making meal time positive fix so many of the eating and feeding problems you are seeing in your households?
YES! As Ellyn Satter says, “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers!”
These 3 Steps Will Bring Enjoyment Back to Eating:
1. Keep Mealtime Pleasant
This is the easiest recommendation, yet the most challenging step for any parent. You spend time cooking up the meal, get it all on the table only to encounter the epic meltdown from your children. “I don’t want that.” “YUCK!” “I don’t like that.” It’s important to respect your child’s opinion, but foster good manners.
Yuck is insulting and not good managers. However, simply stating to your child, “You don’t have to eat it then” will keep mealtime positive. Arguing about food won’t make your children want to rush to the table. They will actually associate it will a negative experience. As you know, we all avoid negative situations, right?
Wait, you are thinking can it be that easy? Just tell them they don’t have to eat it? Yes, keep in mind children are trying to show autonomy. They want you to know they are independent and can make their own decisions. By stepping back and trusting them to do a good job with feeding versus trying to control what they eat, meal time will be much more pleasant for everyone.
2. Include a Variety of Foods
As the parents, it is our job to decide what to serve on the table. Keep in mind though, just like we have food preferences so do our children. Just because tonight you are craving a hamburger doesn’t mean that your child is….and that is okay!
This is why having a variety on the table is important. If they decide they are not “in the mood” for the hamburger there are other foods on the table they can indeed fill up on. This doesn’t mean catering though.
Instead keep these guidelines in mind and serve these 6 foods on the table.
3. Serve Good Tasting Food
The reality is your children are born with an unbiased knowledge of nutrition. They don’t know to eat food because it “healthy” for them. All they know is to eat food that tastes good to them.
Serving the same bland chicken and vegetables all the time doesn’t entice them to want to joyfully come to the table and eat. Quite frankly, it doesn’t make an adult to run to the table either.
Food needs flavor, but it doesn’t mean having to be a gourmet cook. Experiment with new recipes that add new flavors and textures.
At the end of the day regardless of what you serve or what your child eats, fostering a positive feeding environment is most important in raising a child that enjoys eating. Keep building and working towards a positive feeding relationship and you’ll see your children’s eating getting better and better everyday!
What do you think, do you think you have a positive meal time? What is the hardest thing for you to let go of so you can have a positive mealtime? Please feel free to comment below so I can join in on the conversation!