Looking back at my childhood, there is one thing that really stands out and that was the constant battles at the dinner table between my parents and I. Food was a big issue for me as a child and grew to become a full-blown eating disorder by the time I was 13. Because of my history, I want to make it a special point to foster a healthy relationship when it comes to my daughter and food.
Here are several ideas to help your child become a confident eater:
1. Don’t force them to finish everything on their plate
When we force a young child to finish everything on their plate, we’re tampering with their ability to naturally be able to distinguish when they are hungry or full. Children should be able to tell when they are full from the inside, not by what Mom or Dad thinks is enough.
2. Offer child-size serving spoons
The next time you cook something your child is not so hot about, like vegetables, buy some child-sized serving spoons and let your child help themselves. Your son or daughter might find this empowering and a child who gets to decide how much they are putting on their plate might be inclined to give it a try.
3. Don’t turn it into a battle
War was a more appropriate term for my childhood table battles. I hated meat, but my parents told me I was not allowed to leave the table till I finished my roast. My parents are big meat eaters so this made every dinner something I dreaded and frequently left me in tears. I hid meat in my socks, stuffed it into my cheeks and excused myself to restroom to spit it out in the toilet, you name it! Eventually when I hit 8 or 9 my parents gave up and…you guessed it, I slowly started liking meat.
If you are worried your child is really lacking on a certain food group or nutrient, research alternative sources your child can get the nutrition they need. Meat isn’t the only source of protein – it can be found in eggs, milk, cheese, nuts, etc.
4. Let your child help prepare meals
When you let your picky-eaters partake in the prepping of the meal, they might surprise you at dinner time. Letting your child help you cook makes them feel more involved with the food on the table.
5. Let them in on meal planning
Ask your child what sort of side they would like for tonight’s dinner. Tell them they can go with you to the store and pick out what sort of vegetable you are having with your chicken. Giving a child a choice empowers them.
It is important not to turn the dinner table into a battle field, otherwise you may be facing an even bigger battle down the line. Children are really tickled when you ask their input, so make sure you get their two cents when it comes to meal time planning and prepping. Eating should be something a child enjoys, not dreads. Follow these steps to make your picky eater feel more at ease when it comes to eating.