Ensuring your children are happy and healthy is top priority, but as any parent can attest, what makes them healthy may not always make them happy. This is especially true at mealtimes. What is a frustrated parent to do? Here you will find some tips and tricks to make even the pickiest of eaters happily take a bite.
Make Mealtime Family Time.
Eating dinner as a family is extremely important to a child’s growth and development. Little eyes are watching and taking notes. Set a solid foundation, and make family meals the norm in your household. Your child will benefit from witnessing you, the most influential person in their life, making healthy choices and enjoying balanced meals. They will also experience the added benefits of security, a sense of belonging, and stability. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University show that kids who participate in regular family mealtimes are at lower risk of developing poor eating habits, weight problems and even drug addiction when compared to children who often eat alone.
Introduce New Foods.
Introduce new foods early and often. After your child’s first birthday, most pediatricians will give the green light to expose your child to an array of foods. At this age, your child’s diet is manageable, and you will likely delight in watching their little facial expressions as they explore the brand-new world of flavor. Enjoy this time because those once precious facial expressions will soon be accompanied with words and a very strong will. When this natural shift occurs, continue the introductions but also add an element of fun and play. You can make mealtime into a game by blindfolding your child and asking them guess what they foods they are tasting.
Veggies are a tricky one, and toddlers can sniff out a hidden mushroom from a mile away. So, it’s best to be up front about the fruit and vegetables. Explain where these foods come from, how they are grown, and why they are so good for you. Talk to your child about the farmers who helped grow this food, and perhaps create a story about the farmer and his family. Bringing it down to their level will make your child more comfortable about what they are eating.
Disclaimer: Your child may not care one bit about Mr. Farmer, his family, or his veggies. If this is the case, our advice is to get sneaky. Kids can’t pick out what they can’t see. You can create recipes that vegetables can be blended into. Try this great one for veggie nuggets recipe from Real Mom Nutrition.
Ignore the Fuss.
When your child starts to fuss about food, try to ignore it as much as possible. Giving attention to fussy eating will encourage this pattern to continue. If your child isn't hungry, don't bribe them or force the issue. Bribes have the ability to create a power struggle over food. It’s best to avoid any anxiety and frustration in relation to food. At this age, it’s also extremely important that children develop a sensitivity to their own hunger and fullness cues. To help this development, offer smaller portions and give your child the opportunity to independently ask for more.
Pay Attention to Sleep Habits.
A new study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, has found that parents who have a hard time getting their toddlers to sleep at night also often have trouble getting their children to eat balanced meals.
Up to 30% of children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years will resist bedtime or have a hard time staying asleep. It might not be surprising to many parents that a similar percentage of children have trouble at mealtimes. What was once largely speculated is now confirmed; eating and sleeping issues often go hand-in-hand. Children's eating and sleeping habits are the two most common concerns parents bring to their pediatricians, write researchers, led by Dr. Riva Tauman of Tel Aviv Medical Center.
The recommended way for parents address sleep concerns is to change their children's nighttime routine. This usually means setting certain rituals, like bedtime stories, music, or introducing special and comfortable sleepwear. Medical studies have shown that babies sleeping in wool sleepwear settle more quickly, cry less, sleep longer, feed better and gain weight faster. Woolino products are made with the “Magic of Merino Wool,” and the benefits are countless.
Toddlers who experience more deeper and restful sleep are able to take that energy and divert it to growth and development. These benefits will be especially evident during mealtimes, as you witness your child begin to form a healthy and happy relationship with food.