By ALISON WARD*
ARE you finding mealtimes a struggle, spending more time worrying about what the kids eat than eating your own meal?
Here are some tips to reduce the mealtime blues and put a bit of joy back into family mealtimes.
And, if you don’t have family meals maybe these tips will help get you started.
Despite the effort, it’s a lot easier to start a family mealtime habit when children are young, but it’s never too late to start.
It doesn’t matter if it’s not every meal or even every day, or if not all the family are there. You don’t even need a table – a family meal can be anywhere you’re sitting and eating.
If it suits your family routine to make breakfast your family mealtime, do that.
If you worry about what or how much your child is eating, ask yourself: ‘Are they content and healthy?’ If yes, then you’re doing okay.
It’s good to think about what and how much they eat over a week rather than in a day.
Eating behaviour is linked to how active children are and their sleep routines. This changes as they grow, so expect their appetite to vary as well.
If your child seems choosy about what they eat, getting frustrated or worrying about it won’t change it. Give yourself permission not to worry about what they eat.
Put out the food you want your family to choose from and let them do just that. Remember it takes time and guidance for a child to learn how and what to eat.
Make sure your child can sit comfortably at the table. A young child won’t concentrate on eating if they’re uncomfortable. Some wriggling is normal.
Once a child has sat to eat enough so they feel full, allow them to leave and play quietly. This allows you time to finish your meal.
Young children are not neat eaters; they’re still learning how to eat and this takes time.
Put a mat under their chair to collect spills. Wait to the end of their meal to wipe the child down and try not to fuss if they’re making a mess. Messy food can make eating fun for your child.
Put a stop to your child grazing or constantly snacking. Serve meals and snacks regularly over the day where practical and serve food at a table if possible.
Try spacing meals and snack times out every two to three hours, and make mealtimes early enough so your child isn’t too tired to eat.
Talk to your child health nurse or GP if you’re worried about how your child is growing or eating.
Visit www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/healthykidsfor more healthy eating tips.
Alison Ward is community dietitian for the Department of Health