Tag Archives: Healthy Living

The Guaranteed Way To End Mealtime Battles FOREVER

Almost every family has no doubt experienced it.  The dreaded mealtime encounter of “I don’t like it, I’m not eating it”, followed by the battle of wills, pleading, bargaining, commanding, then onto the endless hours of googling and pulling your hair out trying to find a way to please everyone’s individual mealtime preferences.

If you’re exhausted just reading that, no doubt you’re exhausted living it!

There is a way to end that problem once and for all.  And it’s not a magic recipe.  A special way of cutting or presenting food (though that never hurts!) or a ‘formula’ to follow to create willing palates.

Far simpler than any of that.  You just have to make a choice not to get drawn into the battle.  Just make a choice not to argue about it.  Plain and simple.  The battle is over before it begins.

happy kids playing

Food is one of the greatest pleasures in my life and it’s something I believe is incredibly important to pass onto my children.  A love of and an understanding of good nutrition and a healthy relationship with their food is a priority on my parenting journey.

Of course my kids try it on.  They tantrum and experiment with their likes and dislikes, just like everyone else out there.

I just make a choice, plain and simple, that I’m not going to turn it into a battle.  And far quicker than you think, kids very quickly get the message.

I am far too busy working and caring for all three of my kids to stress myself out about what to cook every night that will please everyone.  I’m far too appreciative of a varied diet to succumb to only having spaghetti bolognese seven days in a row. And I’m far too conscious of the importance of good food to allow them to survive on a diet of junk.

Our Family Mealtime Rules

  1. Parents provide, children decide.
  2. I provide healthy, nutritious options, my children can decide how much they eat from what’s served up.  And sometimes that means nothing.
  3. There is no replacement option.
  4. The kids are actively involved in making choices about the food we eat.   It’s not about control, it’s about being efficient and providing boundaries for a healthy diet.
  5. I take into account our family preferences and create family-friendly healthy options.  No fancy cuisine in this house, just simple, good food that the ‘majority’ of the time, is readily accepted.
  6. Treats are totally fine, I just don’t have them in the house.  They are very much a ‘sometimes’ food.  We ‘crowd out’ the cravings with healthy food, so that when it comes to the more indulgent items, it’s no big deal.
  7. We discuss what good food is and how good food makes you feel.  We also discuss why they may feel ‘not so great’ after eating not-so-great foods.
  8. There are no strings attached to a meal.  Food is there to nourish your body.  It’s not a bribe, a punishment or a ‘you can xzy if you eat…’
  9. We encourage playfulness with food.  Don’t want to eat it? That’s fine. But bet you can’t kiss it!  Bet you can’t lick it! What – you did!  WOW!
  10. Variety is the spice of life.  I offer a lot of options, regardless of whether or not they ‘like it’.  Children often need to see food many times over before they will be ready to try it.  It took me three years of regularly serving up carrots to get my eldest to try them.
  11. We don’t say ‘doesn’t like’.  We simply say ‘choosing not to eat that today’.  A food being rejected a few times, followed by the frequent labelling of a ‘fussy child’ and a consistent validation of ‘doesn’t like, doesn’t like” can end up with you creating your child’s own truth!
  12. Children’s appetites are incredibly varied.  Especially during the toddler years.  Be aware of growth spurts and energy needs.  Your child may need more frequent, smaller meals at a younger age than a traditional three meals and two snacks per day.
  13. When considering how much to serve up, halve what you think you should put on the plate.  Then halve it again.  This will save food being ‘wasted’ and avoid your young child feeling overwhelmed at the sight of a large meal.  You can always give more if it’s readily accepted.

It’s not easy.  But having a firm boundary around mealtimes and not allowing yourself to get sucked into mealtime ‘battles’ can make a huge difference, not only to your families diet, but also your sanity and sense of happiness.

My kids are great eaters.  But still, they dig their heels in every now and then and more than once have gone to bed with an empty, rumbling tummy.

But I give them a hug, remind them of the choices they made them which created that hunger and reassure them that there will be a yummy, nutritious breakfast waiting for them in the morning.

And I pause, reflect and give thanks for the fact that my children are so blessed in this life to be able to experience hunger, while never having to truly fear it.

I can’t promise you that this strategy will get your little one to start becoming more adventurous with their diet, but I can promise you that by choosing not to enter into a battle with them about it will result in a far happier, less-stressed you.

If you’re worried about any aspect of your child’s diet or their relationship with food, please don’t hesitate to seek expert help.  There are a number of dedicated nutritionists and child health experts who can help guide you and your family back towards the path of good health.

How To Get Your Child Eating Green (And Orange, And Yellow, And Purple)

It seems like so much of our time as parents is spent worrying about our children’s sleep and what they eat.  But what if I told you that it didn’t have to be that way, that life is so much simpler than we like to make it?  Children by nature, are very simplistic little beings as well as creatures of habit.  They crave familiarity and stability but at times, this also can lead to bad habits developing and can create a great deal of unnecessary stress in the home.

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Sleep is another issue that I’ll address in a later post but today I’ll give you a few tips on how to get your child eating better and setting them up with healthy habits for life.

Rule Number One – Monkey See, Monkey Do.  You can’t expect your children to have healthy habits if you’re not making a good diet a top priority for yourself.  Healthy habits begin in the womb as research has shown that a child’s tastebuds will be naturally influenced by what they’re exposed to during gestation.  Moderation and variety is the key.  Children learn by example, not by being ‘told what to do’.  So make your own diet a priority and you’ll start to see rewards long term both for you and your family.

Rule Number Two – If You Don’t Want It, Don’t Stock It!  I don’t buy junk food or processed food during a regular grocery shop.  If I want that soft drink or chocolate, I’m going to have to drive out and get it.  Sure, at times, I’ll have the occasional processed treats in my cupboard, but I know if it’s there all the time, I’ll indulge all the time. I don’t want my kids growing up seeing food come out of a packet, I want them to see it grown, baked and served with love.  I know my weakness.  So I’ve created this tactic to combat that and also to stop my kids becoming too familiar with a cupboard full of chemicals.

Rule Number Three – You Provide, Children Decide.  It’s up to you to provide healthy, nutritious food and drinks.  But it’s up to the child how much they eat and what they eat.  You can encourage trying something new, but never force them to eat.  It’ll always backfire in the long run.  Keep it simple, serve it up and let nature do the rest.  We have hunger pangs for a reason, let their body work for them, respect their genuine dislikes (my son can’t stand savoury crackers as an example) and allow them to develop a healthy, positive relationship with their own nutrition.  A healthy child will never starve themselves.

Rule Number Four – Never Give Up.  Research has shown that children need to see a new food 15 times before even trying it.  We never use the words, ‘Doesn’t like’ or ‘Won’t eat’ in front of our children.  By saying that in front of them, you’re creating and reaffirming a restricted diet for them.  A simple, “Oh, you don’t want to eat that today? That’s okay, maybe tomorrow sweetheart or another day”.   When my preschooler states loudly that a sibling “Doesn’t like” something, I remind him that “they’re just choosing not to eat it today, and that’s ok”.   It took two years of offering carrots on a weekly basis in our house before anyone ate them.  Now they’re a snack staple!  Try serving them up differently – different shapes, different textures (chopped, grated, steamed, etc) and you might hit the jackpot!

Rule Number Five – Don’t Provide Substitutions.  Don’t allow your own fears to interfere in your child’s development of a healthy diet.  If they’re not hungry for a carrot, they definitely don’t need coco pops.  I like to offer two to three options and let my children have a say in what they’d like to eat, for example, they can decide between an apple, banana or orange.  Don’t get carried away and leave it open ended “What would you like to eat?” is just setting yourself up for failure!  And always  avoid this situation “So would you like a carrot?, a banana? an apple? toast? yogurt? cereal? an omelette? chips? pancakes?”  It simply never, ever works.  Provide options that you know are reasonable and leave it at that.

Rule Number Six – Remember Amounts Will Vary And Be Prepared.  A saying in our house is that “Mummy is not a vending machine”.  However, I’ve learnt that babies can eat a lot, toddlers often eat very little (they may have birdlike diets or be known as healthy ‘non-eating’ toddlers.. both are not uncommon) and preschoolers eat A LOT!  I make sure that I always have healthy cereals, fruits and veggies, yoghurts, cheeses and baked goods ready to go.  And…Yes, food will at times go into the bin.  It’s part of life, accept it and move on.  Don’t make a big deal about it and just remember to start smaller next time.  A good rule for a toddler is to halve what you think they need, then halve it again for the first serving.  Too much can overwhelm and end up with their refusing to eat.

Rule Number Seven – Adjust The Snacks.  Keeping in mind that amounts needed will vary due to your child’s energy needs, if mealtimes are a battle but snacks are being consumed in abundance, then you may need to readjust your serving of them.  Adjust the times that snacks are allowed (An hour from mealtimes is our standard) and the amount consumed if you feel they’re impacting on the  main meal.

Rule Number Eight – Get Them Involved.  Grow veggies, take them to the farmers market, allow them to chop fruits and veggies and decide what gets thrown into the blender.  Take the unknown away and give kids a reason to be proud of what’s being served up. Perhaps they were the ones that grew or picked those mushrooms. Make stories up about food – tell them how much the Easter Bunny and Reindeer love their apples and carrots.  Create positive connections between what they see and what they taste and half the battle is already won.

Most importantly, remember that sitting down to eat is really hard for small active children.  Cut them some slack, keep it short, get creative how you serve it up and make mealtimes fun!

Quick Guide To Introducing A Green Smoothie To Your Kidsraspberry-kale-green-smoothie2+srgb.

  • Start regularly consuming a daily juice or smoothie and include your partner as well as any willing children.
  • Begin with simple flavours that you know are a favourite – watermelon and strawberry is delicious.  Let the kids make it for you.
  • Continue to offer every time if they’d to have some.
  • Subtly add in some extra nutrition  – throw in a small handful of spinach, a stick of celery and some mint to the watermelon and strawberry.
  • Remember to talk about what you’re doing, how great you feel, how it makes you run faster, jump higher and is so healthy.  If they have a taste, challenge them to a running race, the more they drink, the faster they get and they might just beat you if they can drink the whole lot!
  • Ask your kids what colour they’d like and let them help you with figuring out what could go into it – a green smoothie in our house has honeydew, spinach, pineapple, green apple, lime, mint, cucumber and celery.
  • Educate yourself on how you can boost the nutritional value.  Add a supplementary powder, chia seeds, coconut oil, etc.   What flavours you add in will depend on the recipe but there is always something you can add!

Have fun and enjoy the fact that you’re giving your kids one of the best gifts that a parent can give – a positive relationship with food and a love of healthy living.

If your child has issues with food and you’re concerned, getting help from a nutritionist is a great idea.  I love Little Fusspot https://www.facebook.com/littlefusspot you can find them on Facebook and it’s run by one awesome mummy based in WA.  Start following her to get some great ideas on improving your families diet and all how to turn little fusspots into healthy eaters.