Hey parents, this one’s for you! We know with the very unusual back to school season this year, things are probably a bit different day to day at home and in the kitchen. So many parents around the country rely on school breakfast and lunch, especially when it comes to picky eaters at home. So we’re here today with a few tips to help you come up with some great ideas for your school age kids and toddlers, to help keep their bellies full and their immune systems healthy!
- Respect your child’s appetite or lack thereof – We’ll start with one of the hardest ones right off the bat. When it comes to mealtime or snacktime, don’t force your child to eat unless they are hungry. The old additive of ‘cleaning your plate’ for a reward has been proven to actually have the opposite long term effect on kids. Stress or anxiety about mealtimes can really stick with children and can cause a serious power struggle at the dinner table. Always start with small portions for your child’s plate and always include at least one ‘safety food’ so they don’t feel overwhelmed right off the bat. Allow them to ease into the meal and ask for more if they need it!
- Stick to your routine! – Try to serve meals and snacks around the same time every day. If your child chooses not to eat a meal, a regular snack time will offer an opportunity to eat nutritious food (apples, pretzels, oranges, yogurt – so many options!). Snacks should not become an alternative to mealtime so make sure to keep them small and quick, and just enough to tide your child over to regular mealtime.
- Don’t be a short order cook – This one is hard also mamas because we all feel the desire to cook what our children want. But the more customizations and separate meal prep you do, the pickier they will become. Encourage them to sit through the meal regardless if they choose to eat, and when the time does come (later in the day or night) where they are hungry, make sure to have healthy snacks as an offering and do not cater to an entire second meal setting.
- Recruit! – Children LOVE to help, especially toddlers. You would be amazed at what foods will get rejected then accepted in different types of situations. Offer to let them take the berries out of the container or maybe wash off the veggies first. How about getting them to scoop some peanut butter into a dish then you’ve got the celery already cut up and ready to go. Even letting them cut the sandwich into a cool shape (with a very dull knife of course) will inspire creativity and remove the stress of focusing on what the food being served actually is.
- Set a good example and eat together – This one is also hard parents. Especially for all of you that are working crazy hours and schedules due to covid-19. But, when kids and parents eat the same meal together it’s proven that kids get into a better rhythm overall. You can still make yummy comfort food, and dress it up with something healthy. One of our favorites is homemade mac and cheese with chicken and broccoli!
Overall, the battle with keeping picky eaters full and healthy can be tough but it is doable. Staying patient and having plenty of healthy options on hand is a very important combo. A big part of the reason we started Lilian’s Table was to share the healthy meals we enjoy so much at home, to all the families around us! If you haven’t checked out our family menu lately, you can do so here.
Good luck parents and stay tuned for our next blog, specifically featuring tips to keep the kids on track during covid-19 homeschool!