There’s a meme being shared around nowadays about how children seem to have two stomachs. One is healthy meal stomach which is about the size of a pea. The other stomach is only for sweets, snacks and junk food, which can stretch to hold an infinite amount!
Getting children to finish off their plates, especially when there are vegetables involved, is a universal challenge that parents face. Either they have to keep requesting their kids to eat their greens or even worse, it turns out to be a power struggle between themselves and their children.
So, can children learn to eat healthy on a daily basis without throwing a tantrum? Can they learn to make healthier food choices on their own? Yes, they definitely can!
Stock up on healthy food
It’s a lot easier for children to make healthier food choices when that is all they have available. If you have mostly junk food in your pantry, get rid of it and stock up your children’s favorite fruits and vegetables. You can also prepare some items beforehand like boiled eggs and shredded chicken and place them in the fridge where they can easily reach them.
Give your child meal options
This allows your child to feel more in control of what they eat and it makes them feel special because you choose to value their opinions. They will be less likely to complain when it’s a meal option they chose themselves. So next time, ask them, would they like to have salad or soup? Chicken or fish?
Don’t force feed
Coercing your children to eat what and when you want not only creates a power struggle between you and your child, it also creates an unhealthy relationship with food for them. It is important for children to recognize their own hunger signals and eat accordingly. So, when they throw a tantrum or refuse to eat, respect their decision and let them know that they will not be getting any snacks until the next meal time.
Eat as a family
Family mealtimes are a good idea because they help family members maintain positive relationships and gives children a stronger sense of belonging. Parents should eat with their children because children learn through observation and modeling. This way they will be able to pick up good eating manners and will also see that their parents also make healthy food choices.
Invite your children to help you in the kitchen
By doing this, they’ll see firsthand the process behind getting the food on the table and they will be more likely to eat the food that they have helped prepare. Chopping, peeling, mixing, whisking and reading labels help children become more familiar and comfortable with a variety of foods and it will also give you more quality time to spend with each other.
Make eating and preparing food fun
Have fun with food, make it cute, have a picnic in the living room on a giant blanket, eat outdoors, invite teddy bears to tea, create shapes or food art, have foods from around the world tasting night, reverse meal orders or dim the lights and use candles instead. Nutrition is serious stuff but eating can be fun too.