Today I want to tell you about 6 things people with challenging eaters sometimes get sucked into and how to change it up! It can be so easy to fall into these so don’t worry if you do them. I’ve also given some suggestions for what you can do instead.
- “Finish what’s on your plate”
This sounds perfectly reasonable but often parents put portions that are too big. How often have you been in a restaurant and had a massive portion and you finish it even though you’re forcing it down by the end? That’s because a lot of us still listen to that little voice saying “finish what’s on your plate.”
It’s better for kids to listen to their stomachs about when to stop eating and sit at the table until everyone else is full up too. It’s better to avoid a battle of wills at dinner time and get them to help serve up their own portion, making sure that they have a little bit of what you want them to eat. That way they get to finish more often due to smaller portion sizes and you can always ask if they want more of anything. They’ll feel a bigger sense of achievement and you will be happier too.
- Preparing 2,3 or 4 different meals
If challenging eaters (actually any kid) know there’s an easy way out they’ll take it. What you’re effectively saying is that they don’t need to expand their diet because you’re going to continue to provide something “safe” without them even tasting anything new. Then a sibling follows their lead and it all spirals way out of control!
It’s better to have a little of something they like and a little of something new and build up their diet that way, you know they’re not going to starve and they try something new without it being such an ordeal. Obviously, this is easier done along with the Little Bites strategies.
- Giving too many choices and too much control
Now I love choices! The only way my daughter didn’t go to kindy naked was through “do you want this skirt or these pants today?” but giving too much control over dinners doesn’t benefit them. Do encourage them to help you meal plan or shop for *insert troublesome food group here*. If you can get them to cook with you they can decide whether the carrots should be “raw or cooked”, “grated, circles or sticks” etc but don’t ask open-ended questions or give too much control or it will overwhelm them and end up out of control.
- bargain with/bribe them
If you bribe them with lollies and ice cream you’re effectively teaching that they need to eat the “yuck” food before they get the “yum” food. That reinforces the expectations they have (that it’s going to be disgusting) and they won’t grow to like it. As soon as you run out of ice cream they’ll stop eating the balanced diet.
- snacks before dinner
My kids are also guilty of sneaking into the kitchen and trying to eat as much as possible before dinner. “Just a bit of fruit/cup of milk/one biscuit!” Yes, they’re hungry but that’s why you’re making dinner and if they eat now they won’t be hungry for whatever you’re busy slaving over. If they fill up on milk/juice/fruit or anything else the chance of them even tasting something new drops right down.
OK, so I actually suggest to clients that when their child is climbing the cupboards before dinner was a good time to try out their strategies but he’s not going to overload on his new healthy food… and if he does I don’t think his mum will be complaining!
- Force-feeding or yelling (or even sobbing on the kitchen floor)
Anxiety will not let them enjoy the food, it will give them negative associations with it and they could become even more determined not to try it next time! Relax, follow your Little Bites steps and meal times will automatically become more fun and stress-free! Check out these testimonials to see how other families have overcome their food battles.
If you haven’t signed up for your consultation to get an individual eating programme with easy to follow steps you can book here.