Mealtime frustrations with the kids are often our own doing. Feed your kids while keeping these fundamentals in mind, and let go of the need for control.
The daily process of navigating meal time battles can be draining, it’s no surprise you’re this close to pulling your hair out.
If you’re like many moms out there, it’s all too easy to overcomplicate how you should be feeding your kids. In order to make mealtimes enjoyable for you, remember the main rule of thumb is that your kids are in charge of two key things:
1. IF they eat
2. HOW MUCH they choose to eat.
Let them have some space to learn about food and how to best meet their own needs. Feel free to guide and teach, but don’t feel like you need to control every food situation…that can make a mom crazy.
Here are 4 more things to keep in mind to help you conquer mealtimes:
1. Don’t let them eat the same foods over and over.
Your 3 year old can probably eat PBJ for every meal if you allow it. Every once in awhile, she might have it twice in one day, but it’s totally OK for you to say “that’s not on the menu”. YOU are in charge of what is served, not them. Offer a couple of options, which may or may not include PBJ. For dinner, everyone eats the same meal. They can decide how much they have, but in order to avoid picky eaters or becoming a short-order cook, try to not go down that very slippery slope of eating the same things, multiple meals in a row.
2. Remember they are kids and are still developing tastes for different foods and textures.
There are meals that you’d totally love to be able to prepare for dinner, but know your kids would never feel comfortable eating them. Respect that it may just be too much to ask of, and that’s OK. Go ahead and make those meals for yourself to eat for lunches throughout the week. However, when you’re all eating together, be sure to prepare something all of you can feel comfortable with. The objective is to create positive experiences with food for your kids, and the last thing you want to do is make them feel uncomfortable or forced into something they really dislike or aren’t ready for.
3. Eat the same dinner they eat, and don’t diet.
When you all eat the same meal, there are less complaints about having to eat what’s served since everyone is eating it. You can’t expect them to eat something that you aren’t willing to eat yourself, so keep it consistent across the board. That’s how your entire family can stay well nourished with a wide variety of different foods at dinner. Family dinner times are not the time to talk about how you are skipping carbs, on a diet, or counting calories in front of your kids. Their experiences with food should NOT be about that (or yours either!). If you’re doing it, it will absolutely influence the way they feel about food and their bodies.
4. Ask them questions instead of telling them what to do.
Asking them things like “does your tummy feel full?”, “what could you add to that meal to make it more balanced?”, or “what sounds satisfying for lunch?” will be far more effective than “stop eating, you’ve had enough”, “eat this instead”, or “that’s not healthy”. The goal is to build competent eaters who can naturally self-moderate their food selections rather than eaters who follow rigid diet rules.
Your child’s relationship with food starts with you.
The less complicated it is for you, the less complicated their own future with food will be.
Adapted from the original article.
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Emily Fonnesbeck, RD, CD, CLT is a private practice Registered Dietitian based in Saint George, Utah. Instead of creating unnecessary restrictions, Emily focuses on helping individuals become confident and in charge of their own well-being through Intuitive Eating and Mindful Living. She is a strong believer and advocate for helping people become capable individuals who are confident in taking care of themselves. Make a visit and read more from Emily.