It’s that time of the year again, the time when we make commitments to change things in our lives… New Year’s Resolutions. While it can often be tough to pick something to change we often find ourselves picking resolutions that have to do with health; whether that be what we eat or becoming more active. Whether we like it or not, it seems to be harder to eat healthy and stay healthy these days. It’s tough to stick to those resolutions, so we thought we could help with some family goals around mealtime, that would benefit picky eaters and everyone in your family! These are general tips and ideas; at Regina Speech Centre we know that picky eating is a complex issue, with sometimes, complex answers. That being said, we always feel that there are some good general tips you can use that will help all picky eaters. So here it goes, our 5 resolutions for families with picky eaters, or even just families with children!
Eat Family Meals
What does that mean? It means, whenever possible, eat together as a family, all at the same table at the same time, serving up the same food. It means, no distractions: TV, phones, iPads. It means making mealtime a time to be together to talk, interact and connect. In this busy day and age we often find ourselves eating as we run from place to place, or eating at separate times. Mealtime has to be pleasurable if it is going to be motivating. Our children will always be more motivated if we are together connecting and having fun. Sitting down together can be the first step in helping children eat and explore food again.
There are a few reasons that this can be beneficial for picky eaters. First, children are always more motivated to try food they have had a hand in preparing. Also a first step in trying a new food is touching it, so even if they don’t end up eating it, they will have explored it, which actually is part of the battle. Cooking together also can be a fun experience, and to want to eat, food has to be fun as well. It can put foods, that are generally associated in a negative light, into a positive light again. Keeping children engaged with food is never a bad thing. So have fun in the kitchen!
Whether we like it or not, our children imitate us, copy us and develop attitudes and behaviours from us. If we view a food in a negative light, or refuse to try certain foods, what makes us think they will try it. Monkey see, monkey do; really is a true phrase. So make sure you are willing to put everything on your plate, even if it’s not your favourite. Modeling your willingness to try new foods is a powerful tool.
Explore Food Together
What do I mean by this? It means that trying new foods is about the whole entire experience: how it looks, smells, and tastes. Any experience with new foods is a step towards trying food. So working on picky eating doesn’t have to just be about eating the food. You can play with the food: sensory bins with rice and beans, crafts with vegetable stamping and spaghetti. You can go grocery shopping and touch and smell new things in the store. Children can make the lists themselves and pick out the foods. You can take a trip to a farm or grow plants and vegetables. These can all be fun positive experiences with new foods and the food doesn’t even have to be eaten.
Sometimes without knowing it, mealtimes or experiences with new foods have turned into negative experiences. We use negative language, we bribe, we plead, we negotiate. All of this makes mealtime and foods an emotionally charged time. Too often, it is not a positive emotional experience. We say things like: “if you eat your peas you can have dessert” or “Dad really loves it when you eat your vegetables”. Most mealtime experts would agree that losing the negative language, judgement, or any heightened emotion can be the first step towards creating happy mealtimes. It’s difficult not to fall into those old patterns, especially as it’s often language we grew up listening to. All of these comments lead to a situation where we are pressuring children to eat. Let’s be honest; pressure, especially with children, usually backfires! Try talking about your day or discussing fun things instead of talking about how everyone is eating!
So that’s it, our 5 top tips. We wish a Happy New Year to everyone and hope you have a healthy year with your family. Watch the website or our Facebook page for upcoming dates for: Picky Eaters class, Parenting discussion groups for positive mealtimes, and our Ready to Eat Solids course. We look forward to helping parents on their journey to positive mealtimes!
Regina Speech Centre
Empowering families. Connecting Communities.