We know meal times aren’t always the easiest times for parents, but some times, following a few simple basics can make it a little more practical, as well as easier-to-handle. Do tell us if you would like to add your own tips to the list we’re sharing here:
1. Don’t force or bribe your child to eat: We do this many times, trying to get out of a tricky situation by bribing our kids with something or the other, if only they will do what we want. ‘Finish your food, then you’ll get ice cream’ or ‘drink the milk, then we’ll go out for a pizza.’ Sounds familiar? Telling your child that you want them to eat a specific thing or finish off their plate just because it leads to a bigger treat will send the wrong signals to your child. Next time, when you want them to finish their food without a treat lined up, may lead to a lot of trouble.
2. Make mealtimes fun: Make mealtimes a fun time for the entire family. Meal times should ideally be a time when the entire family gathers around the table and talks about their day. Use this time to teach your children the importance of the various ingredients in their meal. Tell them interesting facts. Invent food games, get interesting cutlery,and make it a special part of your child’s day.
3. Eat well yourself, then lead your child by example: If you hand your child a bowl of daliya while you just finished a packet of chips, chances are, your child wouldn’t really want to go for the daliya. In all honesty, who would? If you want your child to eat healthy, you need to be the first one to do so. If you adopt healthy eating habits, very soon your child will pick up the same from you.
4. Encourage child participation in meal planning, preparation and clean-up: Go out for veggie shopping together, read the ingredients together with your child, plan about meal time and shop accordingly, ask your child to help you in the kitchen with chores that are okay for kids to do, let them clean the veggies and do simple tasks like popping the capsicum, shelling the peas and so on. Later, when you prepare a meal together and the family sits at the table to have the same, appreciate your child’s work and make them feel proud.
5. Back off for some time if meal times are becoming big issues: If you are constantly nagging and scolding your child to eat, chances are, your efforts may backfire, leading your kid to get more stubborn and refuse what you’re asking. Back off for some time, let your kid go ahead without you telling them what you eat. Once the situation is back to normal, explain your concerns.
6. Accept cravings as a phase that will pass: No one can survive on chips and cold drinks or ice-cream alone. If your child is fixated on chips, accept it as just a craving. If your little one suddenly only wants burger for meals, relax and understand that a random day or two of burger eating will not harm your child really. If you keep making an issue out of it, you’ll be giving undue importance to the whole thing, leading your child to do it more. Let it pass. Your little one will soon come back to normal eating habits.
7. Accept the fact that your child can have individual tastes and may not like what you like, and vice versa: Yes, what you may like and what your child may like in terms of food maybe complete opposites, but accept it as a fact and try to work around the same. See what kind of food and taste interests your child and make meals that have similar flavours.
8. Never give up on introducing your child to new foods and tastes, no matter how many tries it takes: Yes, your child won’t know if they like or hate something unless they try it. But sometimes it’s difficult to make them try out new food. Don’t force and don’t give up. Try and find innovative ways of introducing new ingredients in your child’s regular food, and very soon they may like what you serve.
9. If your child is a picky eater, give multi-vitamin supplements: It’s really okay to sometimes take outside help. If your child isn’t eating ‘properly’, don’t make it a matter of good/bad parenting. Don’t blame yourself. And don’t scold and blame your child for it either. Instead, get medical attention and give additional supplements as suggested by your child’s doctor.
10.Make sure you set the boundaries – as a parent, you decide what to eat and when. Your child can decide on the amount: You’re the parent, and even though you may be giving your child some amount of liberty when it comes to meal time, there are some areas that you just can’t let go. You know best what your child must absolutely eat, so make sure you make it pretty clear to your kid that there is no escaping this one. Having milk should be a part of your child’s daily routine (unless there’s any medical or other reasons) and you should be the one who should make sure there’s a set time that your child should know as milk time – like a glass at breakfast and one before going to bed (example).