Tips To Boost Nutrients And Prevent Mealtime Fights
Any parent with a picky eater knows that mealtime can be a struggle. While mornings tend to be easier thanks to a reliance on sweeter options for American breakfasts, lunch and dinner can feel like a battle. If another lunch or dinner of chicken nuggets has parents wondering if a child is getting enough nutrients, then consider incorporating the following tips to make mealtime easier, and healthier.
1. Get a child’s input
Children are little people with opinions and preferences. Rather than simply dictating the entire meal plan, ask for input. If a parent selects the main protein, let a child choose the side. Giving children some control over life can boost confidence and avoid the constant meal battles.
2. Pair the known with the unfamiliar
Younger children especially can be notoriously unwilling to try new foods. But sometimes, parents can use a tactic that brings together two seemingly unrelated foods to introduce a new item. The process relies on pairing a known child-approved food such as beans with an unfamiliar option like sauteed spinach.
3. Embrace food bridges
Eating is a sensory experience. So, just like with adults, textures, flavors, and even colors can all influence whether or not a child wants to try new food. To overcome pushback, consider similar pairing foods. For example, if a child loves mashed potatoes, consider introducing mashed cauliflower. The textures are nearly identical and cauliflower can be seasoned to taste just like mashed potatoes.
4. Lead by example
Instilling an appreciation for healthy foods can be hard when a child sees a parent constantly eating take-out or junk food. Younger children often mimic parents and caretakers, which means that healthy habits start by imitation. Ensure that the overall household diet is healthy to set a positive example for little ones.
5. Less is more
Appetite and age can go hand in hand with children. Younger children naturally have smaller stomachs, meaning that less food is needed to feel full. But when introducing new foods, a good rule of thumb is to present a small amount to minimize the chances of rejection. Depending on the child’s reaction, more of that dish can be presented at a later date.
Mealtime doesn’t have to be a fight
Parenting is a series of compromises and discoveries. Keep in mind that younger children do have more limited palettes, so food discovery expectations should be realistic. But often, children learn healthy eating habits by mimicking parents. More importantly, allowing kids to have a say in the foods served can help to encourage dietary adoptions. Parents concerned that a child isn’t gaining enough weight or getting the right nutritional balance should speak with a pediatrician or dietician.
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