Q: Im having a hard time with my kids eating period. I have an 8-year-old boy and a 2-year-old boy. They will eat all their McDonalds burgers & chicken nuggets. But going to a normal resturant or making dinner and getting them to eat is starting to get hard for me. Im tired of making two different meals for dinner? What can I do?
A: You are not alone! Lots of moms and dads have trouble getting their kids to eat wholesome, nutritious foods. Getting your kids to adopt a better diet won’t be the easiest task you’ve ever undertaken, but it is absolutely one of the most important responsibilities facing every parent. The foods our children eat have a huge impact on their current and future health. Since our kids can’t buy their own groceries or drive themselves to fast food stores, we’re ultimately responsible for what they eat.
The first order of business with your children is to let them know that going to a fast food restaurant is not something that happens every day. When my children were little, we only visited fast food restaurants when we were traveling. That was our family’s rule, and it never even occurred to my children than we might eat at a fast food restaurant in our own hometown. You might make a different rule for your family. For instance, you might decide that you only eat at fast food restaurants on Saturdays, or only after soccer practice. Once you make your rule and stick with it, your kids won’t question it.
The next step is to start eating at home as a family on most nights of the week. You might want to do most of your meal preparation on the weekends, when you’ve got a little extra time and energy. You can make six or seven dishes and freeze them, and cut up vegetables so they’ll be ready to steam and serve. After a long day of work, you can come home and pop one of your frozen meals in the oven and put some veggies in the steamer. Once dinner is served, you should encourage your children to at least taste everything on the table. Sometimes, children have to try a particular food several times before they’ll accept it as part of their diets. If they’ve tried everything and still ask for something else, you might offer them something quick, easy, and reasonably nutritious, like a bowl of oatmeal or a sandwich. But don’t offer to make them an entirely different meal, and don’t offer them their favorite food, such as chicken nuggets or ravioli. The goal is to get them to eat and enjoy the food you’ve prepared. Be cheerful and firm with your children, and adopt a “this is the way it’s going to be” attitude. They may grumble at first, but if you stick to your guns, they’ll learn to enjoy eating wholesome, nutritious foods.