Side-step family mealtime battlegrounds
Family mealtimes, idyllic aren’t they!
Or are they?
Sometimes they turn into a battlefield – parents versus kids, usually with some form of vegetable in the middle.
There is a way around this though, by instilling good eating habits into our kiddos from a young age.
I for one began with the bar set high when my daughter first started on solids… no added sugar, lots of vegetables, healthy options at every turn.
But I still found myself in a pasta and cheese rut once she was a few years old.
Family mealtimes: A chance for quality family time
The thing is, family mealtimes are a chance for quality family time.
Family time is so important for every member of the family, not least the children. It’s a time for connecting with each other and building bonds.
Fun, well spent family time leads to everyone in the family feeling valued and good about themselves.
Unfortunately, quality family time is at a premium these days.
A fact borne out by the results of the Bassetts Vitamins Family Life Report, a study of 2000 UK families.
The report found 20% of families admitted that they regularly go a full week without getting together as a family. With UK families on average spending less than seven hours of quality time together each week.
So who wants precious family mealtimes trashed by grumpy kids refusing to eat?!
Which is why, for me, the pasta and cheese on repeat option felt like the right thing to do.
It was the option that meant relatively pain free, enjoyable family mealtimes, where at least I knew she’d eaten SOMETHING!
We’re through the rut now that I have a seven year old who is increasingly more adventurous and less picky.
But the question remains… is there a method that works for getting kids into good eating habits from a young age?
Top tips for instilling healthy eating habits during the early years
Family Nutritionist, Charlotte Stirling-Reed offers the following tips for getting your child into healthy eating habits during their early years:
- Start young. The first 1000 days of a child’s life is a really good time to try and influence their long-term eating behaviours. Offer a wide variety of vegetables. The more familiar children are with foods, their flavours and textures, the more likely they are to accept them.
- Gradually build a routine around mealtimes. This allows your baby to learn when to expect solids and when to expect milk.
- Separate food from other times such as play time or learning time. This way young babies and toddlers learn the importance of food and mealtimes as a separate entity.
- Take the pressure off. Allow the first stages of solid foods to be about exploring and having fun with different foods.
- Offer variety. Children like what they become familiar with and so offering lots of variety is likely to mean they will eat a more varied diet as they grow.
- Eat with them. Let them see you eating at mealtimes and try to eat similar foods to allow the to feel confident about eating it themselves.
- Start with vegetables. Offering vegetables as a first food may help children to enjoy a variety of tastes and may even increase their liking for vegetables as they get older.
- Keep offering foods. Even if at first they are rejected, keep trying! Sometimes it can take a number of offerings before babies are happy to accept new options. You could also try offering the rejected foods alongside ones your little one has already accepted.
- Expect mess! Let babies play with food and expect a mess at mealtimes!
But what about if your child is past the early years stage and your family mealtimes are more war games than warm cuddly family time?
Top tips for creating healthy eating habits for older children
Charlotte has some top tips for battle weary parents who want to get their older children onto the right track:
- Talk a good game. Talk about food and praise children for eating well.
- Make mealtimes fun. Hosting indoor or outdoor picnics, playing pre or post dinner games and using fun dinner props – like colourful table cloths or crockery – will add some fun to mealtimes.
- Have healthy food available. When they’re a little older, keeping the cupboard stocked with healthy options at home will allow children to feel more independent – but still enable them to be familiar with making healthy choices.
- Eat together. Spending quality time together at mealtimes will help your child learn to enjoy good food.
- Role models. Children learn from those around them and you, as their parent, are their first role model. What the rest of the family eats can hugely influence what your child eats.
- Get them involved in meal prep. Children are more likely to eat food that they were involved with preparing. Fact!
- Be cautious of portion sizes. Absolutely aim for 5+ portions of fruit and vegetables per day for children over the age of two, but remember that a portion is roughly the same size as the palm of your child’s hand. Similarly, portion sizes and ‘me-sized’ meals are important. Try not to overwhelm children with adult sized portions.
- Don’t forget the iron. Don’t forget iron rich foods, such as beans and lentils, pulses, nuts, seeds, fish and meat. They are all important for keeping kids healthy.
- Hydration! Keep children hydrated by regularly offering them fluids, choose water as their main source of fluid to protect their teeth and keep their sugar intake down.
Need a further incentive to make family mealtimes quality family time?
If you need a further incentive to get your family mealtimes on track by getting your kids happily eating their meals, take a peak at the benefits of quality family time, as found by the Bassetts Vitamins Family Life Report:
Two thirds of UK parents say that quality family time makes them feel both happier (61%) and more relaxed (40%).
UK parents also noticed the remarkable impact that spending quality time has on their children, with children being more loving (42%), sleeping better (29%), having better appetites (15%) and more energy (20%).
So there you have it.
It IS possible to get your kiddos eating healthily and to have quality family time at the meal table. Try out the tips above, even if you can’t manage all of them, build a couple into your lives and see what a difference they make.
Now, one more thing…
Fancy winning a Colour Quest Activity Kit from Bassetts Vitamins?
Now I must flag, this giveaway is only open to UK residents.
Now that you’ve got a plan to nail quality family time at mealtimes, fancy winning a Colour Quest Activity Kit?
What’s a Colour Quest Activity Kit I hear you ask?!
I’ll let Skye Lucas-Banks from Bassetts Vitamins explain…
“Now that we’re back into the usual routine of school runs, work patterns, homework and chores, it’s all too easy to lose sight of those moments which add colour to family life. That’s why we wanted to create these Colour Quest Activity Kits with some quick and easy ways for families to connect in those little moments they have each day, be it by going on a treasure hunt in the garden or choosing and preparing a nutritious dinner together. “.
What’s in the Colour Quest Activity Kit?
The Colour Quest Activity Kit comes in a super duper kids backpack. It contains:
- Coloured pencil
- Coloured card
- Colour Quest Journal
- A sample of delicious Bassetts Vitamins
How to win a Kit
There are two kits available to be won. Please use the form below to enter. The giveaway starts on 10th Octobe 2017 and runs until 31st October 2017.
Terms & Conditions
Entries are from the UK only
All entrants must be over 18 years old
Winner will be drawn at random from the entries
Competition is run from 10th October 2017 through to 31st October 2017
This is a commissioned post for Bassetts Vitamins