Children vary in their food needs and eating habits. Some children are very picky eaters, others go on various same-food binges. Then there are others who like and eat a little of everything. Everybody is different. That’s a good thing!
Parents often get overwhelmed, though, by the so-called problem eaters. This is a difficult time to get through. However, if they can learn to adjust to the individual differences without making an issue of eating, mealtimes will be much happier.
Here are a number of fundamental mealtime goals most parents want their children to meet.
First, they want them to eat a well-balanced meal. It is up to parents to see that their children have foods available from the different food groups – protein foods such as meat, fish, chicken, or eggs; fruits and vegetables for vitamins and minerals; milk and milk products for strong teeth and bones; and breads and cereals for energy to run, play, and learn.
To taste a little of everything and eat only from their plate. All the food may not be to their liking, but encourage them to taste a little of everything. By tasting a little and eating other foods they like, they should be well-nourished. Some children like to eat what’s on their parents or other children’s plate, or to dip into the serving bowls. Nibbling on someone else’s food should be discouraged. If they want another serving of the food, they can ask for it.
To enjoy mealtime. Hopefully this is a time when the family can eat together. Many studies show how valuable this is to all members of the family. It should be a time of sharing and “catching up” with the activities of each. If there are unpleasant topics, disagreements or criticisms to discuss, they need to be left for another time.
To stay at the table and use good table manners. This isn’t the time to jump up and down from their chair but to remain seated until excused. Having good table manners makes mealtime much more pleasant for everyone.
Mealtime is a good time to sit together, learn about the foods to eat, about table manners, and how to talk to one another. Mealtimes can be the highlight of the day but everyone needs to work on making this time enjoyable.
Enjoy your mealtimes,
Lee Jackson, CFCS
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