Consistent and regular family dinners are an important piece of healthy families. Not only does the research show that families who eat together are physically more healthy, these experiences provide information on your child’s relationship with food. By paying attention to how much and what they eat, you will be more likely to discover any food/body related issues. If you learn that your child is struggling with disordered eating behaviors, please use these tips as a guide:
1. Make time for family dinners. Turn off the television and set the example for your child by “unplugging.”
2. Some picky eaters are super sensitive to food textures. Learning how to eat can be a complicated process that requires patience, education and support.
3. Reluctance to try new foods is a normal reaction for most kids. BUT, what you eat is the single biggest predictor of what your child will eat! Help your child to learn what they like with support and encouragement. And remember, if you don’t eat your fruits and veggies, neither will your child.
4. You have the most control over what your child eats. Offer them a variety of foods. Be sure that everyone eats balanced, age appropriate meals that include dessert!
5. Be a simple cook. Kids like uncomplicated meals that are predicable. Allow them to help prepare!
6. Allow your kids to get messy! Eating is a sensory process where kids learn about texture, temperature and taste. Exploring their foods is an important step in teaching your child to enjoy their food.
7. Caloric needs vary from meal to meal. You may notice that your child is super hungry at one meal, and barely eats at another.
8. Balanced eaters are healthy kids. Just because your child may not have a weight issue, does not justify eating a bunch of empty calorie food.
9. Remember the importance of raising healthy eaters. The relationship with food may be one of their most important, and protective against the development of disordered eating or body image issues!
10. If you are worried about your child’s eating habits, enlist the help of a professional to evaluate your child’s nutritional health.
DO NOT FORGET TO: Sit down for meals as a family. PUT AWAY YOUR CELL PHONE. Do not bring up emotionally charged topics. SET EXPECTATIONS FOR WHAT SHOULD BE EATEN. Instill confidence and love for nutritious food. Appear positive and supportive. DO NOT COMMENT ON CALORIES. Focus on flavor and enjoyment. Appreciate your family. DO NOT CRITICIZE YOUR WEIGHT. Ask about highlights of the day. Engage with each child equally