Before becoming a parent, most of us probably never dreamed we would resort to the things we do to get our child to eat-threats, extortion, bribery, and blackmail! With time, patience, and consistency, you can win the war and get maximum nutrition into your child with a minimal amount of struggle.

One mistake often made by parents is serving adult-size portions to a small child and expecting the child to eat it all. For a preschooler, start with serving one tablespoon of each food per year of age, and let them ask for more if not satisfied.
Your consistent attitude, over time, will help them become more cooperative at mealtime and teach them good eating habits. Instead of asking your child what they wants to eat for a snack, give them a choice of healthy foods. For example, “Would you rather have peanut butter on crackers or a banana and some yogurt?” is better than “What do you want to eat?” Either choice is a good one, but the child gets to make the choice.

It is also important to create a calm atmosphere during meals. Here are four rules that will help you make mealtime a happy time:

  1. Bickering and arguing should not take place during meals.
  2. Discussions about unpleasant subjects should wait.
  3. It’s a good idea to turn the television off and make mealtime a time for family interaction.

It’s also your job as a parent to teach your child about healthy food choices.
One way to reinforce this is to teach them that all meals should include at least three food groups, and snacks should include foods from two of the food groups. Children need to learn to eat foods from each of the food groups: Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta; Fruits; Vegetables; Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs, and Nuts; and Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese.
Another way is to teach kids how to prepare their own snacks and meals. Small children can assist with meal preparation while older children can be taught to make simple dishes on their own. Getting them involved is an important part of the process.

There is no doubt that it takes work and patience on the part of the parent to incorporate these strategies, but the earlier you start, the easier and more pleasant mealtime can be in your family.

DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The information is for informational purposes and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any illness. Consult a physician before taking any action.

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