How to make meal times a war-free zone ?
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Make meal times a war-free zone. Turn the dinner table from a nightly battlefield into a place of enjoyment and food discovery. Here are your four rules of engagement if your child is a fussy eater.
Rule 1: Timing is everything
The timing of your child’s meals is more important than you think. Little appetites don’t last as long as adults’ so the key is to feed your child every two-and-a-half to three hours.
If he’s had breakfast at 6am, morning tea at 9am, lunch at 11:30am and afternoon tea at 2pm, then he’ll probably need dinner at around 4:30 or 5pm. Trying to push it out to 6:30pm when everyone is home won’t end well, as his appetite has long gone and tiredness has set in. Some parents report success in giving their little ones a main meal in the middle of the day or at afternoon-tea time, when they’re at their hungriest.
Rule 2: Sit at the table and turn off distractions
Meals should be shared together at the table without the distraction of toys, TV or video games to enable the family to interact.
Little ones left to eat in front of the TV are unaware of what they are eating and miss out on learning about basic foods. A familiar routine and set meal time and place is recommended, as eating on the run can build bad feeding habits and put your littlie at risk of nutritional deficiencies as he becomes a small or picky eater.
Rule 3: Don't force feed
Your littlie’s stomach is around the size of his clenched fist, so filling up will happen quickly. This is why healthy snacks between main meals become essential for providing a balanced diet and why forcing your child to finish everything isn’t a great tactic. If you’re worried your child is using being full as a way of avoiding an unwanted dinner, the key is to understand and manage the serve sizes:
* If your little one has eaten half his meal and tells you that he’s full, ask if he has room for one last mouthful and then he can finish.
* If between a quarter to a half has been eaten, remove half of the remaining meal from the plate, as this will be far less daunting for him to try to finish.
*If he’s full after one spoonful then he’s either filled up on foods too close to dinner, is overtired, or is simply refusing to eat the meal. Remove it without fuss, explaining that there is nothing else. If he decides to try again, remove half the meal and reheat.
Remember appetites can be related to growth cycles, which flatten out at times.
Rule 4: Don't bribe with food
While healthy desserts such as fruit and yoghurt can be a nice way to finish off some of your meals, don’t fall into the trap of the age-old, “If you eat all of your dinner you can have some ice-cream!” Doing this means your child comes to expect a sweet or treat after every single meal, and even the way you say it teaches him to look forward to the treat more than his meal.
If your child is younger, use the foods on his plate to talk about or play colour games with, or if he’s older you can talk about how fast he’ll run or how tall he’ll grow when he eats certain foods. As a reward, offer a game after dinner or a reading of his favourite story.