If I had a nickel for every time I had to poke and prod my kids to “take a bite” or “finish a meal,” I’d have… a shitload of nickels.
Feeding your kids nutritious whole foods can be challenging. As a nutritionist and parent, I care deeply about nourishing my kids with healthy plant-based foods to help them grow, develop, and feel their best. But, like most kids their age (8 and 6), all they ever want is cereal and cookies.
I’ve tried everything over the years, from coercion tactics (no screens if you don’t finish your dinner!) to bribes (five more bites then you can have dessert!) to giving up and serving mac n’ vegan cheese for dinner. But now, I realize these are all colossal mistakes on my part. Mistakes that can lead to my kids developing unhealthy eating habits as they get older.
The key is to help them cultivate a healthy relationship with food that will last a lifetime.
And how can you do that? By avoiding these common mistakes (that I’ve made a thousand times).
1. You only offer foods they like.
If it were up to my son, he’d eat peanut butter sandwiches exclusively.
Avoid feeding them only foods they like because it’s less hassle.
Keep offering new foods, but don’t make it a big deal. Just put it on their plate and see what happens. They don’t have to eat it, but eventually, they might.
2. You make mealtime stressful instead of fun and enjoyable.
Feeding your kids healthy foods doesn’t mean you need to make them choke down every last bite of broccoli.
A healthier approach is to make mealtime fun. Inject some silliness into the situation. Talk about your days. Play a family game while you eat. And, most importantly, don’t put pressure on them to eat everything.
3. You don’t let them choose what or how much they eat.
Children’s need for autonomy increases substantially as they grow out of toddlerhood.
Give them the power to choose what they eat off their plate and how much of it.