Are you Making One of These 6 Common Mistakes When Feeding your Child?
Updated: Jul 28
I gotta confess, there are times when I get desperate with my daughter at mealtimes. I give 110% effort at lunch; I prepare her whole-grain pasta, roasted vegetables, a portion of fruit, and all she does is make a disgusted face. Does it sound familiar to you?
That's when I have the need to listen to my inner voice of #childnutritionist, calm down, and repeat the same advice I give to families and moms... ooommm!
I think all of us have been through frustrating times where meals just don't turn out the way we thought. Whether our children don't want to eat vegetables, they reject the food you prepared with so much love or they just don't want to try new foods. Meals become a nightmare and we no longer know what kind of tricks to do for our children to eat.
As a Registered Dietitian I can tell you that the most popular question I hear from moms is “How do I get my child to eat vegetables?" After many years of experience listening to families and children, my conclusion is this: It's not about any "tricks," and it's not about the broccoli, carrot, or tomato either.
"My philosophy is simple, I don't believe in diets for children, or tricks or games, I believe in teaching children to eat healthy"
It's about the environment you create at mealtime, your attitude when presenting vegetables, food preparation, the food table and above all the family habits you promote at mealtime. We should also mention that there are children who are more sensitive or resistant to trying new foods or certain textures. Genetics also influences! In this case, it is important to receive an evaluation with occupational or speech therapists to rule out any sensory disorder that could be affecting the acceptance of new foods. Children between 1-4 years of age tend to be more picky eaters and are more reluctant to try new foods. It is part of the NORMAL development of the child and not something bad that you are doing!
Bad eating habits are created by moments of frustration that we have with our children. This frustration pushes us to make irrational decisions, which in the long run may be turning the problem worse. What good is it for your child to eat “spinach”, if in order to achieve it you have to force it?
Below, I share the 6 most common mistakes I see when feeding your children:
"You can't get up from the table until you finish all your food" – We have heard this phrase more than once. Even as adults, we have not forgotten. There is nothing worse than having to force your child to eat food. Forcing food on your child has the opposite effect; an aversion for that food. The point of eating is to develop a positive relationship with food.
Personal Chef - Without realizing it, you have now become a personal family chef who prepares 3 or 4 different dishes for different members of the family. One doesn't like fish so you make chicken, the other one doesn't like pasta so you make rice. This habit is reinforcing to your child that there is no motivation to try different foods since he will always have what he likes.
You don't eat vegetables - It sounds basic, but the best strategy for your child to develop good eating habits is if you have them. If you want your child to eat vegetables, then you have to introduce them every day in different meals. Your most important responsibility is putting healthy food on the table. Over time, they will learn to put it in their mouths.
Food as a reward “If you eat your broccoli you can eat a cookie” – This phrase is one of the most common that we say as a last resort of despair. When you use food as a reward, you subconsciously teach your child that food is associated with something good or bad. We know that eating disorders, including overweight problems in adults, are associated with eating for emotional and not nutritional reasons.
Too many snacks - Children usually need 1-3 snacks a day. Remember that the purpose of snacks is to SUPPLEMENT meals, not REPLACE them. Snacks should be given 2-3 hours after a meal. Avoid fights at snack time. Better give them 2 snack options "Do you want strawberries or yogurt?" and let them decide. #snacksforchildren
You give too much importance to food - Do you spend your time talking about food at home? Scolding your son about what he didn't eat or what he ate? When you make food too important, you point your child at your Achillese tendon. You are giving your child the power to manipulate you with food. If you don't give it importance then they eat because they are hungry and because they like it, not to please you or to have a prize.
Eliminate fights at the table and transform meals into happy and healthy family moments.
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