Creating good eating habits in your child might be simpler than you think. Follow our dos and don’ts for healthier – and happier – mealtimes
It probably hasn’t escaped your notice how easily a biscuit goes down your child’s throat while a carrot is more likely to be used for target practice on the floor. However, by implementing some simple methods at meal times, you might be surprised at the speed in which your child’s eating times become more harmonious.
Do…Set meal times
Offer three meals and two snacks a day.
‘Try not to give into demands for food outside of these times,’ says Melissa Little, paediatric dietician for babycare guide providers Essential Parent Company.
Do… Make a food plan
Know what you’ll be eating in the week ahead and shop accordingly. ‘That way, you won’t have to rely on high-sugar, high-fat quick fixes or a diet of toast,’ says nutritionist Amanda Ursell.
Do… Introduce new foods
Expose your child to new foods 12-15 times to overcome any aversion. Toddlers have a natural suspicion of unfamiliar food. The answer? Keep offering them the new taste.
Do… Lead by example
‘Children want what they see you eating,’ says Melissa. So, if you love your junk food, keep it quiet – or rethink your choices. Mmm… broccoli.
Do… Keep food portions small
Try offering smaller amounts, then dishing up more once they’ve finished. Often, they don’t eat all their food because there’s simply too much on their plate.
Don’t… Force feed
Amanda suggests never insisting your child finishes everything on her plate if she doesn’t want to. ‘You’ll just create more problems down the line,’ she says.
Don’t… Offer endless alternatives
It’s important not to give attention to poor eating habits by offering something else instead. ‘This just rewards unacceptable behaviour,’ says Melissa.
Don’t… Offer all-day grazing foods
‘A child who’s filling up on endless drinks and snacks is unlikely to feel hungry at mealtimes,’ says Amanda.
Don’t… Make every meal a TV dinner
As we all know, children have short attention spans. ‘If you want them to eat well, keep their focus on the food,’ says Melissa.
Don’t… Drag out dining
‘It’s hard for a small child to sit in a chair without getting restless for longer than 15-20 minutes,’ says Amanda. ‘Serve food promptly and they’re less likely to reject it.’