With summer coming to an end and school starting, so is the afterschool routine. With this comes dinner time, some parents most dreaded time of the day. If the dinner table has become a battleground it’s time to throw in the towel and try a new approach-one that may shock your children. Let them eat what they want in whatever quantity they want. As parents, you control the “what” they eat, they control the “how much”. No longer will you force, bargain, or bribe them to eat what is on their plate. When there is no longer pressure, there will no longer be rebellion. It may take some time for your child to trust that you will not go back on your word, but once they realize this new eating routine is here to stay, they learn they are in control, which is ultimately what the rebellion was all about gaining control.
Prepare balanced meals that have food items you know they like-but remember you are not a short order cook, especially if you have more than one picky eater in the house. Educate children in the importance of eating so they can run and play; also educate them on listening to their body. Encourage them to stop eating when they are full and to ask for a snack when they are hungry. Teach them to trust their body. Some days they will eat more than others, they may also stop eating foods they previously liked. Let them experiment on their own. This is their way of building confidence and control, support them.
Change the language from “good”, “bad”, or “junk” food. There is no food that is no longer forbidden or limited. At first, your child may overindulge; however once they again learn you are sticking to your word, the monotony will wear off. Because the food is always available, they will not feel the need to overeat or sneak foods that were previously limited. Adopting this philosophy of eating may be stressful on a parent when they see their child eat more dessert than their meal, stay the course. Also, do not look at meals in isolation, consider everything your child has eaten over the week; they will get all the nutrition they need.
Finally, remember the age-old saying, monkey see monkey do. Children are like sponges that soak up everything around them, particularly the behaviours of their parents. Modelling behaviours that include eating a variety of foods, stopping when full, and not focusing on weight or body image will help your child grow to have a healthy relationship with food and their body.
Turkey + Cheddar Roll-up
Deli Meat + Cheese Kabobs
Red Pepper Slices
Fruit Leather or Snacks
Hard Boiled Eggs
Baby Carrots + Ranch
Peaches or Applesauce
SOURCE: Jenelle McAuley, RD, LDHC