Feeding children can be the most exasperating experience.
There are no magic techniques but the following tips may help eliminate meal-time tantrums with those reluctant eaters.
- Try a pre-dinner walk to increase appetite before dinner.
- Involve children in decision making and meal preparation. They are more likely to eat when there is some investment in or ownership of the meal.
- Keep the atmosphere pleasant and enjoyable. Take the focus off food and make the family meal about spending time together. It can be surprising what children will eat while participating in an interesting conversation.
- The parent’s role is to decide what to eat and to set the rules and expectations for behaviour at family meals. Children should be responsible for deciding how much to eat at a meal. Appetites vary and children need to be allowed to eat according to their appetite.
- Stay calm. It’s difficult to do, but getting angry, making threats, jumping up and down or trying bribes usually does very little to encourage better eating. In most circumstances the best response is to calmly take the food away and try again at another time.
- Give children the chance to become hungry. Most children and adolescents need snacks to meet kid’s nutrition requirements. However, too many snacks, especially when eaten too close to dinner, can blunt their appetite for meals.
- Consider food provided at after-school care facilities. Many organisations provide a hearty ‘snack’ after school. You may not need another meal at home. Rather, a smaller snack may be more appropriate.
- Consider how much money adolescents have to purchase food outside the home. Home meals are more likely to go untouched if large amounts of food are being purchased outside the home.
- Think carefully about substituting food. If you cook something new and your child doesn’t like the meal, it’s reasonable to substitute a nutritious alternative. However, children quickly learn that they will be given yoghurt, toast, sandwiches and so on if they don’t like a meal.
- Large serves can be off-putting. Start with very small serves. You can always serve more.