Food wars! Now showing in your local kitchen! Before becoming a parent, most of us probably never dreamed we would resort to the things we do to get our child to eat-threats, extortion, bribery, and blackmail! With time, patience, and consistency, you can win the war and get maximum nutrition into your child with a minimal amount of struggle.
The Right Attitude
Having the right attitude about feeding your child is the first step. As the parent, your job is to stock the kitchen with nutritious foods and prepare healthy meals. The child should be allowed to decide what to eat and how much to eat (within reason, of course).
One mistake often made by parents is serving adult-size portions to a small child and expecting the child to eat it all. For a preschooler, start with serving one tablespoon of each food per year of age, and let her ask for more if she is not satisfied.
Your consistent attitude, over time, will help her become more cooperative at mealtime and teach her good eating habits. Instead of asking your child what she wants to eat for a snack, give her a choice of healthy foods. For example, "Would you rather have peanut butter on crackers or a banana and some yogurt?" is better than “What do you want to eat?” Either choice is a good one, but the child gets to make the choice.
It is also important to create a calm atmosphere during meals. Here are four rules that will help you make mealtime a happy time:
1. Bickering and arguing should not take place during meals.
2. Discussions about unpleasant subjects should wait.
3. It's a good idea to turn the television off and make mealtime a time for family interaction.
4. No one should be forced to join the "clean plate club."
It's also your job as a parent to teach your child about healthy food choices.
One way to reinforce this is to teach her that all meals should include at least three food groups, and snacks should include foods from two of the food groups. Children need to learn to eat foods from each of the food groups: Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta; Fruits; Vegetables; Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts; and Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese.
Another way is to teach kids how to prepare their own snacks and meals. Small children can assist with meal preparation while older children can be taught to make simple dishes on their own. Consider allowing children to help with meal planning, shopping lists and actual shopping. Getting them involved is an important part of the process.
There is no doubt that it takes work and patience on the part of the parent to incorporate these strategies, but the earlier you start, the easier and more pleasant mealtime can be in your family.
For More Information
Visit our new links page at
www.foodandhealth.com/links/ - click on Food Links then Child Nutrition Links. We have also prepared a list of children’s books that are recommended by us and other dietitians. Click on Books then Children’s Books to see them. Note that you can also add your favorite links and books to our database.
By Beth Fontenot, MS, RD.
Good Snack Ideas
Plan ahead to help make snacks healthy and easy to make. Cut fruit and veggies in bite size pieces and keep them on a lower shelf in the refrigerator so kids can help themselves. Here are some easy and healthy snacks for kids:
• Spread peanut butter on whole grain crackers.
• Serve fresh fruit with low-fat yogurt as a dip.
• Top whole wheat crackers with low-fat cheese.
• Serve 100% fruit juice with low-fat popcorn.
• Make a trail mix with pretzels, nuts, and raisins, or dried fruit.
• Stir dry cereal in low-fat yogurt.
• Dip bananas in yogurt and chopped peanuts.
• Serve baby carrots with low-fat Ranch dressing.
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.