Do you struggle to get your kids to eat well? Do they refuse most meals you put in front of them? Do you end up cooking lots of different meals or giving them what you know they will eat?
As a mum to a threenager I have been through the tantrums, I have spent hours cooking meals to have her take one look at it and say “NO!” or worse ” I don’t like it!”, when she hasn’t even tried it!!
I previously worked at a wonderful crèche and helped put together menus for the children. Parents would be astonished with some of the food the children were eating, but when offered the same menu at home they would flat out refuse. This included me! My daughter ate so much better in crèche and it got me to thinking why…???
So basically it’s a battle of the wills. Children will try and get away with what they can; they will learn from it and will NEVER show mercy! I soon learnt that when my daughter understood she wasn’t going to get her favourite meal everyday (sausage, mash and beans) otherwise she would go to bed hungry she soon started eating what I put in front of her.
Children go through stages, when they first start eating; they will literally eat just about anything you put in front of them. As they get older they decide they want to push your buttons and their favourite fruit which is usually grapes will then suddenly become their most hated food ever!!
These are my tried and tested methods of getting your children eating better and making meal times a lot less stressful.
Ask them what they want!
How easy is that? However, make sure you ONLY give them two choices. That way they feel like they are in control, even though the two meals you suggest are what you want to make! This option works with a lot of other things too! Especially when it comes to bed or bath time!
Get them involved
Children love feeling grown up and copying their parents – especially if it’s something they shouldn’t be doing! So let them help you prepare meals, whether you prepare the vegetables for a soup by cooking them and you let them cut it up once soft; they feel like they have had a hand in
making it. This way they are much more likely to eat it and want to have it again. Getting them to share out the fruit between plates for snack time is great – just make sure they wash their hands and keep a vigilant eye out for up the nose foraging. This also helps with counting or maths if they are older. Asking to put a certain amount on a plate or half of the total amount will have them using their brains too!
Make a herb garden
When our restaurant ran a children’s cookery school the kids used to love picking their own herbs from the garden. They used to love watering them, smelling them and using different combinations for their dishes. The more they know and understand about food the more they will enjoy it. This is quite easy to do with minimal expense.
Take them shopping
This is another great way for your kids to get involved and take ownership of some of the meals. They could have their own ‘special’ dish that they make the best! Even better than mummy etc… So give them their piece of paper with the ingredients for their ‘special’ dish. That way they can go into the butchers and market to pick their own items. I bet you the shop owners will find it refreshing and the kids will feel so grown up and proud!
Offer an alternative
My daughter loves fruit and has a few portions per day. That not saying she doesn’t try her luck with chocolate – especially smarties! She often asks for them, and isn’t pleased when I say no! However I always offer her an apple as an alternative, if she takes it she is genuinely hungry, if she doesn’t……… nice try but not this time! This leads me on to my next point…
Dont reward them with sweets!
I know for a fact a lot of people do this. It seems harmless, but what is this teaching them? If you’re good you can have sugar laden food?! I don’t want my daughter being good so you can get sugary snacks. This doesn’t mean I don’t give them to her. I just control it so she doesn’t have it every day and doesn’t come to expect them when she does something well. I choose to reward my daughter with activities, a trip out or buying her a magazine. These are more expensive than sweets but I guarantee your little one will appreciate it more than some sweets – ESPECIALLY when they are older and they look back.
Take no prisoners
This is for the stronger willed people; I did this with my daughter as I literally got to the end of my tether. You must, 100% have to have your partner on board, otherwise it doesn’t work. They will end up sneaking food to your child behind your back and you look like the bad guy!! So it’s the usual scenario, you make a lovely meal which you KNOW your child likes and they take a look at it and refuse. This is where you remain calm and inform them that this is the only meal you are making this evening. It’s hardcore but I don’t bin the food, once they are bathed and ready for bed you can guarantee they will turn round and say “I’m hungry”, you can reheat the food and offer it to them. This may seem a little over the top but it does work. I think my daughter went to bed without dinner literally 3-4 times (not in one week of course) and she now eats what I put in front of her. If they were really hungry they would eat it. Obviously this only works if you know your child is not ill and you know that this is a meal they usually enjoy.
These are things I have picked up from being a mum myself and working for 2 years in a crèche. As we know, all children are different, these methods work and if your child knows you mean business they will soon give into your demands! I would love to hear if you have tried any of these methods, or if you have any of your own. Being a mother is the most demanding yet rewarding job I have ever had. The hours suck, the pay is lousy and the work load relentless, but the rewards are incredible.
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