New Foods and Family Meals
7. "I give up. My 8-year-old truly loathes vegetables."
It really does take between ten and 20 tastes for a child to warm up to a new food, which means tons of rejection for the cook along the way. "In our house, I suggest that everyone at least taste new foods that are offered," says Dr. Jana. "We call it the 'No-thank-you bite.' They don't have to eat more. That way they at least have to try a little." Meanwhile, experiment with sneaking grated vegetables into sauces and meat loaf, or buying fruit-juice blends that contain vegetables. (Just be mindful of serving sizes; fruit juice can be highly caloric.)
8. "I know family meals tend to be healthier, but it's close to impossible for us to pull them off."
Research shows that families who eat together have a much lower incidence of obesity, says Jamieson-Petonic. The good news is that it doesn't matter which meal it is. Start small and try to schedule three family meals per week. A new study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reports that those three meals have a major impact, reducing the odds of children becoming overweight by 12 percent and increasing the likelihood of kids eating healthy foods by 24 percent. (As kids get older, having meals together lowers the risk of disordered eating by 35 percent.)
9. "My son finishes his dinner in 90 seconds or less. An hour later, he says he's hungry again."
Children, like adults, take about 20 minutes to accurately assess how full they are. To the average 4-year-old, 20 minutes can seem like two hours, so there's often a major disconnect between what's happening in his brain -- as in "I'm staaaarving!" or "I'm bored now, so I must be full" -- and what's actually in his belly.
The secret to slowing down mealtime? "Have fun at the dinner table," says pediatrician Laura Jana, M.D., coauthor of Food Fights. "Keep it light. Play games." For example, the whole family can try eating with their nondominant hand or with chopsticks. Ask questions about your child's day to slow the pace of the meal. You can also encourage kids to sip water or milk between bites, and try serving food in courses once in a while, to teach kids that, at least sometimes, they can eat at a more leisurely, mindful pace.