Nutrition

Make mealtimes easy

Author: Canadian Living

Nutrition

Make mealtimes easy

Discuss your kids and their eating habits with other readers in our forums.

This is the time when you can have most influence on what your children eat. Even if you are working and you have a childminder, nanny or doting grandmother looking after your child, you can still ask them to follow your healthy eating principles. It's different if your child goes to a day nursery.

You are in charge. Nominally, though, because these can be the most problematic years for many parents: I'm thinking about the phrases "terrible twos" and "troublesome toddlers." In general, babies aim to please you, but between the ages of about 18 months and four years, children become aware of relationships and of their own innate "power." This can cause difficulties, particularly at bedtime and at mealtimes. There can be a battle of wills, which all too often involves food: impatience and worry on the part of the parent (is he getting enough to eat?) and petulance and tantrums from the child. Here are a few stratagems.

Sit down to eat with young (and older) children. They get used to the fact that mealtimes can be sociable occasions, and that food is a pleasure. Also if you, or others, are eating as well, he or she will get the idea.

Give small portions, and make the food look attractive on the plate. A toddler might take one bite of a whole apple, but if you cut it up into smaller pieces he or she could well eat the lot.

Let your child feed himself, even if it does mean a mess on the high-chair tray or table, and on the floor. This is all part of the learning process.

Never say too much about the food -- just put it in front of your child without comment. If you are matter-of-fact about it, food won't become an issue.

Don't try to bribe: "Eat your peas or you won't get any pudding," or "If you don't eat your broccoli, you can't play on your bike." This suggests that other things (pudding or playing) are nicer or more fun than eating vegetables.

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Excerpted from Second Helpings: Fresh Ways to Feed Your Family by Jeanette Orrey. Copyright 2006 by Jeanette Orrey. Excerpted by permission of Corgi, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

• If a toddler won't eat something you put in front of him or her, or takes a long time, do not make a fuss. Get on with something else -- the washing-up, or reading the paper.

Not eating could be to do with craving attention. If you ignore difficult eating behaviour, your child will soon realize that attention and praise will follow eating rather than not eating.

Don't offer an alternative food: they either eat it or they don't. It maddens me the number of parents who prepare not just one meal in the evening, but sometimes up to four, to accommodate everyone's different tastes!

Never have a row about food. Losing your temper is a sign of weakness, and children recognize this and exploit it. Most children learn quickly that if they refuse to eat for long enough, adults will give in. And that's a dangerous precedent to set.

Talk to your children, about what they like and don't like to eat, and why. Then there can be some sort of agreement: "If you really don't like peppers, then I won't give them to you." At least your child might feel you were more on his food wavelength.

• A child might not be hungry at mealtimes because he has had too many snacks. Preschool children have small stomachs, so feeding them little and often is not totally forbidden, but avoid snacks too near to lunch or supper. And make those snacks nutritious -- they need nutrient- and calorie-dense foods to help them grow.

• If you or someone else in the family doesn't like a food, either don't serve it or, if you do, don't let a fussy eater see that it's not particularly appreciated. Set a good example.

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Read about the difference between bribery and reinforcement.



Excerpted from Second Helpings: Fresh Ways to Feed Your Family by Jeanette Orrey. Copyright 2006 by Jeanette Orrey. Excerpted by permission of Corgi, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Nutrition

Make mealtimes easy

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