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Three Strategies to Get Your Children to Eat – Part 3

Getting your children to eat does not just start the minute that you sit down at the table for a meal.  It starts long before that.  In Part 1 I talked about doing an inventory of your current attitudes and your kitchen environment.  In Part 2 I talked about using discovery and involvement to get your children excited and engaged.  Today we take it into the kitchen.

Eliminate the power struggleNutrition-Grand-Junction

Children can sometimes feel like they have very little power.  They may decide that the battleground they are going to choose is the kitchen table.  You say Yes.  They say No.  You say “I said Yes”.  They say “No way in this century!”  The tears start, the yelling starts, or if your child is a skinny little thing, the begging starts.  The most effective way that I have ever found to eliminate this is to give your child some power and input when it comes to meal time.  I think it works well to give children choices.

  • You get to choose which veggie we have for dinner.  How about broccoli or carrots?
  • Would you prefer your carrots cooked tonight or raw and dipped in hummus?
  • Would you like your tuna salad wrapped in lettuce leaves or on a piece of bread?
  • We are having hamburgers tonight would you like to form your own burger just the way you want it?
  • Tonight we are grilling pork chops.  Would you rather have a baked sweet potato or white potato?  Could you help me by scrubbing the potatoes with this brush?

When giving choices it works best if you only give options that you are ok with.  If you have a child who will only eat noodles, it would be best if noodles was not one of the choices.  Try to get them to branch out to include some healthier options.

Repeated exposure

Children are not that much different than anyone else.  Change is difficult and we tend to prefer things that we are familiar with.  Food is no different.  Do not expect your child to like something the first time you put it on their plate.  If it is healthy and something you would like to start including then just keep offering it.  Make a request of your child that they try one bite and then thank them for trying it.

Be the solution, instead of part of the problem?

I have been very involved with caring for children for most of my adult life.  I pay attention to those children and how their parents interact with them.  What I have noticed is that children live down to their parents stated expectations. Let me give you an example.

  • Three children are dropped off for the evening at just about dinner time.  They will be having dinner with me while their parents go to a movie.  The minute they walk in the door the children want to know what is for dinner.  I tell them that the wonderful smell coming from the kitchen is a beef roast with carrot, onions, and potatoes!   I ask  them if that sounds  yummy and they say “YES, when  can we eat?”  Right on cue momma says in her most apologetic voice, “I am sorry that you went to so much trouble, but Jenny HATES carrots, and Joey won’t eat anything that has even touched an onion.  I am sorry my kids are “picky eaters”!  And just like that, she has removed any chance that her kids will sit down to my table and taste their dinner.
  • Same situation, a different end result.  Mom and dad leave for the movie. The children help to set the plates on the table and Grand-Junction-Nutritioneveryone sits down to dinner. Susie pushes her carrots around her plate, but they look a little different than the ones mom makes and eventually she tries them.  Joey pushes the onions aside but eats a big helping of the other good food that has touched the onions.  Score one from progress!

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