“Ewwwww! I hate this!”
“This is so gross!”
“Mom, are you trying to poison us?”
These supportive words of affirmation are just a sampling of those heard around dinner tables every night, leaving mothers to wonder if they will ever prepare a meal that doesn’t inspire Oscar-worthy performances of spontaneous illness, pretend gagging, and sometimes even a dramatic death scene. Sound familiar? You’re not alone!
These days, it is not surprising that for many families, “dinner” is more a random collection of food than a meal, with each family member eating something different. In fact, the Institute of Food Technologists reports that while more families are eating at home, nearly half of those meals are fast food, delivery, or takeout.
So how do we get everyone around the table, eating the same meal, and sending their compliments to the chef? Try treating your children as VIPs and remember to Vote, Involve, and Prepare.
Many times kids reject food because they perceive that they will not like it, so presenting something they have never heard of can be the fast track to disaster. Letting them “vote” on dinner can help. Assign each family member a night when they get to plan dinner. If this seems too risky for your family, make a list of mom-approved options and let them select one. Giving kids a sense of control at mealtime can help diffuse conflict and lead to increased confidence in decision-making later. You never know, pancakes and scrambled eggs might become a new dinnertime favorite!
Getting kids involved in the food they eat is a proven way to encourage an appreciation for healthy food. Weekends can be a great time to let kids try their hand at helping prepare a meal. Little hands can count bite-sized vegetables and sprinkle low-fat cheese atop a hearty hidden-vegetable lasagna. Kids can also be involved in preparing their snacks for the week ahead: assign the task of counting 15 crackers and 15 raisins to be packed into a lunchbox later in the week. By involving the kids in the family’s food preparation, they are invested in the process and gain a sense of pride, which just might motivate them to actually eat the food they helped prepare!
It is said that success favors the prepared mind, so it is also important to prepare our minds with realistic expectations. Expecting every meal to be an idyllic experience of peace and tranquility may be unrealistic, but it is certainly possible that four out of seven meals could be free of meltdowns. In addition, prwhich reinforces the positive experience of being involved in meal planning.
Mealtimes can be stressful for a busy family. By slowing down the process and making meal preparation a family activity, mealtime can go from manic to marvelous! Bon appetit!
Mealtime Makeover: From Manic to Marvelous
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