You have begged and pleaded with them. You have cried and screamed. Still, your kids don't want to eat what you know is good for them? Try these tactics to ensure your kids are both happy and healthy.
Step 1. Apologize to your children for any negative behavior on your part, related to food
For example, if you have previously taken away privileges that are not related to food (for example, computer time) then it is time to apologize and say that it will not happen again. Food should be related to food and nothing else, unless you want to continue with the battles.
Step 2. Review the food pyramid with your children so they can understand what constitutes a healthy diet
Step 3. Create a new rule, for example, "if you don't finish eating your plate, you won't eat dessert."
Explain this rule to your children before lunch; this so that they are prepared and can decide.
Step 4. Plan your menus so you can include some of your kids' favorites; This is so they know that you care about them and what they think
For example, if you know that your child's favorite food is macaroni and cheese, ask him which vegetable he would like to eat with this dish.
Step 5. Involve your children in the kitchen
Even if it's a simple thing like turning on the cold water, it's surprising what your kids will eat if they feel like they cooked it themselves.
Step 6. Refuse to fight with your children at mealtime by offering vegetable alternatives such as chopped raw carrots with dressing
However, don't allow them to eat dessert if they choose the alternative. This has to have a double effect: ensuring that they eat something healthy and knowing that what they are rejecting is not really liked.
Step 7. Thank your children for having eaten well and having a good time during the meal
- Be realistic about how much your children can eat. A good rule of thumb is to measure one tablespoon of food per year of age.
- Take into account that there will be foods that your children will not eat no matter what happens. The most important thing is to make sure their diet is balanced and healthy.
- The first few times you try this, you may want to buy or make an extra dessert, one that you don't commonly have at home. This adds a little more incentive for your kids to eat what you made.
Some little things your kids can do to help you in the kitchen are:
- Take some food out to prepare, for example a piece of cheese from the refrigerator or large plastic bowls (if these are high up, lend them something they can climb on).
- Mix up a salad (if your kids are in preschool or younger, be prepared to clean the residue off the plate).
- Stir. Depending on the age and maturity of the child, they can mix up some cold foods during prep time or they can even stir things up on the stove, under your supervision.
- Pour. Definitely don't start with liquid ingredients or things that can cause an irreversible mess the first time you try this, but even young children love putting cheese powder on macaroni pasta, while other children enjoy the responsibility of handling hot ingredients for itself.
- Cutting hot dogs or other soft foods with butter knives. This provides you with an environment to teach your children how to handle knives safely with little risk of hurting their little fingers.
- Something about the seasonings: If you are horrified by your little ones pouring tomato sauce on a piece of meat, you can serve them something else to eat or look elsewhere.
- Remember that many children do not like their food to taste as much as that of adults. If required, prepare a version of your dishes with less flavor or seasoning and that children like, for example, tacos and spaghetti. You can either do this or open a can of pasta soup for those times you or your spouse need the spicy flavor.
- If you've been struggling with your kids for a long time over mealtime and how much they eat, prepare for them to continue arguing with you. Don't give up and don't threaten them. Just remind them of the new rule and the alternatives. It may not seem to work at first, but a tantrum will stop if you just ignore it.
- Close supervision means just that. A kitchen can be a dangerous place for an inexperienced chef, so make sure your little ones know all the rules before helping you; supervise them around a stove or sharp knives.