Don’t make this healthy eating mistake.
Dr Orlena Kerek is a pediatric doctor and mother of four young children. She writes about developing healthy habits from an early age, especially healthy eating habits. She believes in fun healthy food the stress free way. You can find her over at Snotty Noses.
Now that you are presenting our children with a healthy diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables, you are bound to hit a brick wall. You’ll find that your children are independent beings who don’t want to eat carrots or peas or broccoli. They like pizza and burgers and fries.
This is where the stress starts to creep in. You’re trying SO hard. You know it’s important. You’ve gone to so much effort.
“Yuck!” “I don’t like it!”
Noses turned up. Plates pushed away.
No, it’s INFURIATING. I know! I have 4 kids and sometimes they tell me they don’t like what’s for dinner BEFORE they’ve even seen it.
It’s tempting to shout, to scream, to threaten to throw the dinner at them.
I don’t. (Only in my dreams.)
So what can we do?
Developing Healthy Eating Habits: Why I don’t nag my children to eat?
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We can simply offer them the food, the HEALTHY food and let them decide if they want to eat it or not.
You offer them healthy food at regular intervals (meal and snack times) through out the day.
If they are hungry, they will eat.
If they are not hungry, or don’t like what’s on offer. They can choose not to eat.
They don’t get to choose a packet of biscuits instead. They don’t get their favourite spaghetti bolognese every day.
They get varied, healthy and tasty food presented to them.
Of course they can help to cook. They can help to decide what healthy food they’ll eat but the key is to offer them healthy food and not to pressure them to eat it.
Pressuring Children to Eat has Negative Consequences.
That’s right! You don’t pressure them to eat.
No “clean plate club”.
No “try your carrots”.
Not even “one polite bite”.
You learn to trust your children. You learn to give them control over what goes in their mouths. You control what you offer them. They control what they eat.
Pressuring children to eat does not work. It makes meal times stressful and creates power struggles that you aren’t going to win. Pressuring your children to eat can also lead to an unhealthy relationship with food later on in life, comfort eating or even bulimia.
Offer them Variety.
Children don’t like variety.
They will be resistant. The more variety they eat, the more likely they are to try new foods. We want our children to get nutrients from lots of different places rather than eating spaghetti bolognese every day.
You can alternate favourite foods with new foods. You can offer them together. This is one of the easiest ways. If you offer them a range of healthy food, some that you know they’ll like and some that is new, you won’t be worried about them going hungry.
It’s Not Easy Not to Pressure your Children to Eat
Please don’t get me wrong, I know that it’s not easy to not pressurise our children to eat. I know that our natural instinct as a parent is to encourage them, to show them how tasty the food is. Our natural instinct is to tell them what to do and we expect to be obeyed.
You need to prepare yourself. You need to tell yourself that they won’t eat it (chances are that they won’t.)
You need to not be worried about it. You need to be calm and happy. You are giving them an opportunity to try some exciting new food. If they want to try it, they will. If not, there’s more for you.
It takes patience and persistence to teach our children to truly like healthy food.
Keep presenting healthy food, without pressurising them to eat and one day you’ll wake up and realise that your big grown up children are happily tucking into a big bowl of salad.
And you did that. You taught them to love healthy food.
You can read the other two articles to accompany this series here:
For further information you might find Dr Orlena’s E-books of interest (affiliate links)