How can I get my child to eat balanced meals?
This question comes to many parents in the supermarket, at night in front of the refrigerator… Some children seem like “picky eaters” and sometimes parents wonder if their children’s eating habits are alright. Here I am going to talk about five cases friends of mine have talked to me about getting their children to eat healthy balanced meals and I hope they will be helpful to you.
Anna: 7 years old, is not hungry for breakfast
Anna is like many children. Still it is hard to let kids leave the house on an empty stomach. It is the first and most important meal of the day because it recharges kids batteries and gives them the energy to be alert in class. Try to lead by example by eating breakfast together and reserving breakfast as a special time between parent and child to talk. You can also prepare a breakfast table with options to make breakfast more tempting and vary breakfast choices regularly.
Mike: 6 years old, loves cookies! It is normal that he is hungry at snack time, but can he eat cookies every day? If yes, how many and when?
Snack time is a small meal. It is also a break after a busy day when a child can relax and recharge. Pay attention to what your child is doing at snack time. It is better if your child does not snack in front of the television but pays attention to what he is eating, in the calm, taking time to tell you about his day. Cookies are not terrible for children and some cookies are better than others. Try serving 2 or 3 cookies and a glass of milk and some fruit. To change things up you could try a French snack of squares of dark or milk chocolate in a small hunk of French bread. Very yummy! Or the French yogurt cake (also great to make together). And finally, be careful that your children do not snack too late because this could ruin their appetite for dinner.
Arthur: 10 years old, plays lots of sports. Does he need to eat more?
When your child is physically active it does not change his appetite very much and he still needs to eat balanced meals. Don’t forget to encourage eating a balanced breakfast with dairy, fruit, whole grains and water. For the meal before sports time try preparing carbs like pasta, rice or potatoes (but not just before sports practice because this could disrupt digestion). To keep hydrated before, during and after sports practice, have him bring a bottle of water. If when he comes home from sports practice he is very hungry and eats a little more than other days, don’t worry, he burnt the calories at practice.
mym [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Thomas: 6 years old, does not want to eat vegetables.
Don’t worry, this is normal. Vegetables can be an acquired taste that children develop over time with age and repeated tastings. The key to eating healthy and balanced meals is not to label foods as off limits nor to force foods either. To keep children from refusing to try healthy foods, don’t force them! Suggest that he tries them over time. For example, you can associate vegetables with foods that he likes, such as pizzas, vegetables in sauces on pasta or in omelets or quiches. You can also make shapes with vegetables to make them more interesting. You can also introduce vegetables by planting a vegetable garden together or cook vegetables together. If it is him who made it, he will be proud and will probably try what he made.
Madison: 9 years old, eats better when she chooses what to eat… is that good?
Why not, if it makes her happy. If she wants to eat a piece of pizza, this is fine. Just propose a small salad of shredded carrots as an appetizer while the pizza bakes and some fruit for dessert. And if she asks for this too often, try introducing a special day of the week where it is Madison’s day to pick out dinner!