Solving Mealtime Madness
Bringing Family fun and relationship back to the dinner table
We are often asked about mealtime and how to get kids to eat. We love to help, so here are our recommendations to establish peaceful and healthy family mealtimes.
1. To begin, be careful not to overwhelm your child with a large plate of food.
Kids don't really want a huge meal. When giving them their meal, be careful to put only a few (maybe three) bites of each course on the plate. Teach them the one-bite-no-thank-you rule. That is, they must take at least one bite of each course. If after they have their one bite, they do not want to finish that course, allow them to say "no thank you", and move on to the other courses. Kids must be introduced to foods multiple times before they will actually develop a taste for it.
2. Be sure not to give them seconds if they didn't finish all of their meal.
So if they want more mashed potatoes, but didn't finish their broccoli, you will hold off on the potatoes. When and if they finish the entire meal, use lots of words of encouragement, so they feel the victory in finishing.
3. Go gently on the spices
Even though we want to train our child to eat the family meal, (in other words, don't make a meal for you and hubby and a separate meal for children), be careful that the flavors aren't too adult. As adults, our taste buds are dulled, so we tend to use lots of spices. Kids are super sensitive with keen taste buds. Strong flavors may just too much for them. Try to season lightly, then add at the table whatever extra seasoning/spices you and your spouse may want.
4. Set the timer at the beginning of the meal.
Setting the timer gives your child a reasonable time to eat what's on the plate. Maybe 5-10 minutes longer than it takes the adults. Whatever he does not finish is peaceably cleared along with your plates. There should be NO consequence for not eating.
Follow these guidelines for all meals.
5. Are Snacks the problem?
Here's the key. If getting your child to eat meals is a problem, then between meals your child should not have snacks. No snacks or drinks (milk, juice, etc.) with the exception of water. Please note: this will not apply to children with health issues like diabetes, etc, or under a doctors orders to follow a different routine for eating. The biggest issue is the mid-meal snacking. With tiny appetites, we end up sabotaging our kids for meal time. In fact, we even use food as a diversion, just to keep them quiet or content while we are trying to accomplish our tasks. This is not helping our child's good meal habits. When our children can count on their food coming three times a day, which by the way is a complete luxury compared to most in the world, they will appreciate the food they are offered and will eat more of what's on their plate. In fact if you only put a few bites of each course, you will eventually hear him ask for more :0). In the beginning there may be some stubborn refusal, but as he learns that he will not have any snacks to get him through to the next meal, he will begin to appreciate the next meal.
6. Bring healthy snacks back
Once your child has established good eating habits at meal time, you may reintroduce very small healthy snacks between meals. If you notice the meal time habits are being affected, make the healthy snacks even smaller, or go back to no snacks. Sugar is our bodies arch enemy. Try to eliminate as much sugar as possible from your child's diet. You will see the cravings and appetite for good foods increase, and resistance to illness will greatly improve. Even behavior will radically improve, depending on how much sugar was actually in the diet prior to this change.
The important thing is consistency in applying these principles! When you are committed to this pattern for mealtime habits, we, at Training Hearts for Jesus know this will help bring peace to family mealtimes, and better health to your sweet children!!