As mums ourselves, we get you. Life is already stressful, and you don’t need mealtimes to be stressful either. Are you confident of mealtimes?
We’re from Food is Cool, and we bring you the latest in nutrition and education, and we’re here to help you make mealtimes stress-free, and to give you easy ideas on what you can offer to nourish your children, with minimal prep.
Our Top Tips on How You Can Make The Most of Mealtimes:
- I know you really really want to, but please don’t say anything at the dinner table, or any table for that matter!
- Research shows that the more you tell children to eat something (i.e. eat your veggies), the less they will eat it; and the more you tell them not to eat something (not too many sweets), the more they will eat it.
- Just provide and see magic happen. Hold back and talk about anything other than what they are eating. It’s going to be difficult, but trust us, it works.
- Don’t give up, consistency matters.
- It takes between 6-20 times for children to actually start liking a new food.
- Keep offering what’s on your menu. Then let go. If they eat, or don’t eat, it’s up to them. Just provide, and consistently provide.
- When they do eat, remember rule 1. Don’t say anything. Use this opportunity to talk about the day, adventures you have planned, the weather, their friends, and so on.
- Offer new foods with a positive context. It’s just as important as what you offer.
- We all know it’s important to provide nutritious foods to children. But the context is also just as important, if not more important.
- Make mealtimes a happy time. Once you let go and refrain yourself from talking about what you are giving your children, then the pressure and stress will literally lift off. Use this time to connect with your children.
- Role model and eat the same foods you’d like your child to eat. Let them see you eat it and enjoy it. You can talk about how much you like the food, but try not to say anything about how much they like the food.
Power struggles at mealtimes? First rule, it’s not a you vs them, it’s a partnership and an opportunity for connection. You need to be confident about what is on your menu and remain calm during mealtime. Mealtimes for children are part of the learning process. To develop your child’s sense of agency and allow them to have a sense of belonging during mealtimes, allow them to participate as much as possible in mealtime. Ask them to help set the table or ask them to help prepare or cook the food etc. By doing this, your child will feel like an active and valued member of the family.
Give your child some power – we are working in partnership together “would you like to pick the green plate or the yellow bowl. You decide.”
Remember, talk about anything but the food, for example:
- What is one thing you enjoyed about today?
- If you could have one superpower what would it be?
- If all your toys could talk, what do you think they would say?
- A time for connection. Mealtimes together offer a regular time to meet each day and connect and communicate. Decades of research have shown that regular family meals offer a wide variety of physical, social-emotional AND academic benefits. Sitting down for dinner together gives children a chance to share their day with you, and for you to ask about theirs. Children crave connection and attention, and regular family meals offer a perfect opportunity to provide both. So set aside some time each day for a meal together, free from distractions like screens. It doesn’t have to be dinner – you could do breakfast or lunch. And if you can’t manage every day, aim for most days. You and your children will reap the rewards.
- Your best is good enough. Every mealtime doesn’t have to be instagram-worthy. Your child may not remember what you made them for dinner, but they will remember how you made them feel. Don’t worry if you don’t have the time or energy to cook something amazing every night. Just do your best, and know that it is good enough. So relax, and enjoy mealtimes.
Easy and Nutritious Food Ideas to Offer:
When introducing new foods, the key is to offer it with something that is familiar. Offer your usual snack, but provide one of these ideas below at the same time. Remember our Top Tip number 1. Offer, and just don’t say anything. Also remember number 2. It may take up to 20 times to see results- and it’s totally normal!
Corn on the cob in under 3 min: wrap corn on the cob in waxed paper and pop in the microwave on high for about 3 minutes (depending on size and microwave power). Careful when opening as it’ll be piping hot! Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil to help absorb nutrients and voilá!
Frozen edamame beans: You can find these in most supermarkets in the freezer section. They’re already cooked and just need heating. Super quick and children love to squeeze the beans out of the pods with their mouth. Season with some garlic or onion powder for a tasty punch of flavour.
Cucumber and carrot lollipops: Wash and cut 1 medium carrot and 1 long Lebanese cucumber. Cut the carrot into a couple of long sticks, approximately 2cm wide. Cut off both ends of the cucumber and insert one of the carrot sticks through the seeds into the cucumber. Take you time. Once inserted, cut the cucumber into 4cm slices and place a skewer into each slice to make the lollipops. Enjoy!
Frozen yoghurt smoothie: Simply blend any milk you have with frozen fruit, ice and plain greek yoghurt for a quick filling drink.
Dr Flav is a change-maker in global human health and well-being. A Brazilian-born, Canadian-raised and Australian made scientist with three degrees under her name, she believes in the power of science to solve some of the most challenging nutrition issues especially among children.
Miss Sinead has over a decade’s worth of experience in education being an experienced teacher, author, education leader and professional development facilitator. Having worked internationally, Miss Sinead brings a global perspective and cultural diversity to the table with a strong ethic around methodologies and languages to help break the mould around nutrition education for young children.