It is safe to say most parents want your children to eat healthy food. Some of you would be happy if they would eat anything at all! If your normally easy going child turns into a screaming banshee when presented with a sprig of broccoli, you may need help. Meal time should be a time of happy connections but for too many families it is a battleground. It is exhausting for child and parent alike. But what to do about it?
Good news – Bad news
The good news is that things can get better. The bad news is it may take a little work and soul searching to make improvements. In spite of our best intentions as parents, sometimes we set these things up. Sometimes we are too busy to plan ahead for the next meal, leaving our children overly hungry and cranky. No one can cook with a cranky child clinging onto their leg. So the child gets placated with a stack of crackers, potatoes chips or whatever is quick and easy.
Build from the foundation up
When trying to turn your child into a healthy eater or any kind of an eater for that matter, you have to look at the environment as a whole. It may be helpful to ask yourself these questions.
- What are the overall attitudes regarding food in the household as a whole? Are they adventurous, picky, stubborn, openly disapproving?
- What is on the pantry shelves and in the refrigerator? Are they stocked with boxed and processed foods, chips, candy, sweet cereal, and crackers?
- Is there a bowl of candy on the counter or a bowl of fruit?
- Does the family sit down and eat together without the TV and cell phones or are the temper tantrums a way to try to get attention.
- Are healthy snacks prepped and available, like a plate of sliced veggies, Greek yogurt, some raw nuts, some berries or fruit?
- Is the child involved in the selection, and preparation of the food? Are they given choices or input?
What is food anyway?
That may seem like a weird question, but I have a reason for asking it. Sometimes I think we think about food all wrong. It is a chore, an expense, a battle, a decision, a mess, you get the drift.
What if we thought of food as what it really is. Food gives life. Sharing a meal and providing nourishment to yourself and another human is a gift and a celebration. What if we could think of it in that way? What if we could look at all the amazing foods we have to choose from with a sense of wonder and gratitude. How much better would it be to look at meal time as a time of love and sharing, of reconnecting after the day and re-energizing for the next day? To me that feels different than shopping, deciding, slaving over a hot stove and washing dirty dishes.
Next week in Part 2 we will talk about how to help your children look at food in a new way through involvement and discovery. If you can’t wait for that article, we recommend you read Remember ‘YOU’ are the Parent. Also, if you follow us on our Facebook page you’ll be notified of all our articles.