Some of the best advice I got very early, as a parent was “pick your battles”. I live by that nugget of wisdom handed down to me. With two very young children, I am presented with a huge amount of battles daily and to fight them all would be exhausting.
One battle I gave up a long time ago was the mealtime battle. The more I thought about it, the less sense it made to force my kids to eat. With teething, growth spurts, mood changes and whatever other drastic developments the little beings go through, their food intake is constantly affected in one way or another.
We sometimes forget that our kids are pint-sized humans, just like us. We love our kids and always want the best for them, but these good intentions sometimes get in the way of what is helpful.
Here are some changes I implemented around meal times.
Finish everything on your plate
As a fully-grown woman, my food intake changes from day-to-day. My mother, even now, will tell me I need to eat more and it annoys me. The reason it annoys me so much is because I know when I am full. It’s a biological impulse.
As soon as babies are born they have an ingrained survival technique. They know when they are hungry or full and they will let you know about it. Let your kids decide how much food they need to help them understand their bodies.
One thing I have found with my kids is that the more autonomy I give them, the better they respond. Once I have prepared a meal, I let them choose a plate, cutlery then tell me how much of everything they want to eat.
Not going to lie, they never ask to have vegetables on their plate but that’s the only rule I impose. They have to have it on their plate. They don’t have to eat it but I figure one day soon their curiosity will get the better of them and they will eat it.
As much as I can, I get the kids to help out with the entire process of our meals. They help choose from all our recipes, they help with the shopping, the preparation and the cooking. This makes them feel included and gives them a sense of accomplishment, which makes them more inclined to eat what they produce. I especially recommend growing your own veggies and extending that involvement to the garden.
This was borne from my own toxic love affair with sugar. I had never had a sweet tooth until I was pregnant with my first child. My sugar intake spiralled out of control. I tried to cut sugar completely from diet with very little success. What I found was by completely restricting yourself from a food group, you crave it more. It becomes the forbidden fruit. Instead I filled up on whole foods and allowed myself a sugary treat every so often, sans guilt.
This attributes to a much healthier relationship with food and one I would like my kids to adopt.