Is mealtime often a nightmare?

Trying to get your child to eat healthy?

Is mealtime often a nightmare when trying to get your child to eat healthy? Relax, it doesn’t have to be this way. Eating is the one behavior your child truly does have control over, and that’s okay, because after all we want our children to grow up to be assertive and independent, don’t we?

As parents, we need to know that it is the CHILD that decides how much they will eat, and IF they will eat at all. Of course you want your child to eat the most nutritious foods possible, and thankfully, that is what you can control. It’s you, the PARENT that determines what your child eats, when they eat and where they eat. If meal time is a constant struggle for you as a parent, consider that your expectations might be too high. Just as adults may be resistant to change or trying new things, children are no different. The only way a child can learn to like a new food is by repeated exposure, which takes anywhere from 10 to 20 times. When offering new foods, it’s best that the parent not make any comments about the new food. This can be hard to do, but as parents, if we tell the child he has to eat a specific food, we risk creating problems with feeding and distorting growth. Also resist the “clean plate” syndrome or the temptation of bribing your child with dessert. This can also create unhealthy eating habits and promote obesity. Never reward a child with food.

21 days to break a habit and 40 days to change that bad habit into a good habit!

As a parent, we can sneak healthy foods like vegetables into our child’s foods, but we also need to let them learn to like a new food by seeing it in its natural form. When children are exposed to a new food, they may first look at it without tasting it, then they may taste it, but not swallow it, then they may swallow it, but not eat any more. It can be a long, drawn-out process. You must be patient. Don’t let the child dictate the family menu, however. They will eat when they are hungry. It is not your job to be a short-order cook, but only to provide them with the healthiest choices. When they are hungry, they WILL eat!

Ironically, One 4-year-old I knew naturally preferred vegetables over everything else.  Her mother forced her to eat pork chops like mine forced me to eat spinach. If your child naturally prefers things that are healthy, don’t fight it. You can find creative ways to add proteins, like soy beans, nuts and beans that are high in proteins.  Don’t fight success!  Don’t accept failure, either. 

Another family I knew had the mother scurrying to meet every tiny food preference the children had.  It turned out that the only thing all of them liked was pizza, beef (especially hamburgers), cheese, corn and ice cream.  Needless to say, the whole family struggles with weight issues.  The tip of making healthy food choices is only successful if you use the discipline to make those healthy choices consistently.   Skipping back and forth can’t be an option if your aim is to teach your children to make healthy food choices.

Did you know that?

  • Healthy eating for kids doesn’t have to be difficult. All you really need to do is find better alternatives to the junk food that they see advertised everywhere they look.
  • The first step to healthy eating for kids is to have lots of good tasting, healthy food for them to eat at home. Make it easy for them to choose healthy food at home.
  • Obesity is the number one health problem and type II diabetes is becoming epidemic among US children.
  • Family meals are an important part of healthy eating for kids.
  • Over 30% of American tourists finds it difficult to fit into Japanese bus seats?

Identify the worst foods your children currently eat and decide to eliminate them, one per week, until you have replaced the vast majority of the unhealthy choices with healthy alternatives. Once you start eating healthy on a regular basis it will become easier to continue eating healthy. You will start desiring healthy foods and a good-looking salad may very well literally make your mouth start salivating. They say it takes 21 days to break a habit and 40 days to concretely change that bad habit into a good habit, so if you’ve been eating healthy stuff for over a month you can continue to eat healthy for the rest of your life if you choose to. Set intermediate goals such as “no sweetened beverages for three weeks” or “no grains for three weeks.”

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