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Make Mealtime Easier

Make mealtime happier for the whole family - By Cara Rosenbloom RD

Meal time does not need to be stressful! Make mealtime easier when feeding children by implementing some of these tried-and-true strategies.

With two young kids (ages 8 and 4), mealtime is always an adventure in my household! My daughter is a fantastic eater and will try anything, while my son is less adventurous and prefers plain, bland foods. My first obstacle is finding foods for one dinner that will please both of their palates. Here are some solutions that I implement to make mealtime run smoothly at our dinner table.

Defined roles at the table

My training as a dietitian included some awareness of feeding children, but nothing in a textbook can prepare someone for kids who love pasta one day and abhor it the next, who get more peas on the floor than in their mouth, or who insist they will only eat foods that are green. That training only comes when you’re actively feeding children! And whether you’re a lunchroom supervisor, parent, caregiver, grandparent, relative or friend, you definitely learn while on the job.

Here’s what my formal training tells me about the roles at the table, and I have found that this works in any setting where adults are feeding children.

  • The adult’s job is to offer a variety of healthy foods at a certain time of day, and should do it in a pleasant eating environment with a table, chairs, tableware, cutlery, etc.
  • The child’s job is to choose both the type and amount of food that they will eat based on what the adult offers them.

With these clear roles, the arguments over how much your child eats will dissipate, because it’s up to them to determine how hungry their tummy is. It puts an end to the outdated adage of “clean your plate,” which is problematic because it forces a child to ignore their natural hunger or fullness cues.

Offer a variety of health foods

Now, let’s get back to the adult’s job of offering a variety of healthy foods. This is an important responsibly for us grown-ups! Essentially, we are offering the food that the children get to choose from, and we want them to make healthy choices.

Here are some tips for making lovely ones this year:

  • Offer lots of colour. Kids like to fill their plates with six or seven different items and colours, so variety is a good thing for kids.
  • Put at least two foods on the table that each kids like. That way, even if picky eaters won’t eat everything, there will be at least a few things to fill their plate.
  • Let the children add flavours on their own. You can keep the base foods plain and put out different condiments, dips and herbs for kids to use to add flavour to their own foods. It will help prevent you from cooking several different meals – this way it’s one dish that can be custom-made to individual taste buds.
  • Make sure you offer foods from different food groups to ensure that an array of nutrients will be taken in.

Some examples may include:

- Vegetables and fruits: peas, broccoli, cucumber, tomato, apple, carrot, banana, salad greens

- Grains whole grain pasta, crackers or bread, brown rice, oats, millet, quinoa

- Milk products: cheese, yogurt, kefir, milk, fortified soy beverages

- Protein: chicken, fish, meat, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs

The last point is a vital one, and it’s also the adult’s responsibility: be a role model. There’s no way a child will eat a plateful of broccoli and broiled chicken when you are eating a hamburger and fries. Make healthy eating a priority in your life and the children who watch you will certainly follow suit!

One-Pot Meals

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