The benefits of a pleasant "sit-down" family meal include building strong family ties as well as strong, healthy bodies. Try these simple dos and don'ts to make mealtime fun and pleasant. Do sit together at the table as often as possible and include your children in the meal preparation. Do use mealtimes to discuss pleasant topics that include your kids and let them select new foods or recipes. Always model good mealtime manners.
Don't read the paper, allow toys at the table or have the TV on. Don't give your child meal preparation jobs that are too hard or take too long. Don’t argue or use mealtime for lectures or personal criticism. Don't serve large portions of new foods. Don't expect your children to "do what you say but not what you do."
Picky, Picky, Picky
To discourage finicky eating habits, include your children in grocery shopping and food preparation. Be patient with your kids and keep mealtimes pleasant. Offer nutritionally acceptable choices and model good eating behaviors such as drinking milk at meals. Be sure to praise them for tasting new foods. If your child refuses a new food, offer it again in a few weeks. Recent research suggests that a new food may need to be offered 10 times before it is accepted.
Use snacks to satisfy your child's hunger – not as treats or rewards. Offer nutritious snacks one to two hours before meals. If meals are more than four hours apart, include some protein and fat to satisfy hungry appetites. Get more helpful information about child health and development in Riley Hospital for Children's free book Caring for Kids. For a copy, please call 1-877 TO RILEY to check where the book is available in your area.