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I was visiting an acquaintance one evening when I overheard her planning for the next day's meals. The next day was to be a holiday and she was stressed out about meal choices. For breakfast she planned parathas for husband, eggs for child 2 and pancakes for child 1 who was a fussy eater. Vegetable poha for herself was on the menu because she was on a healthy eating spree. "What should I make for lunch?" she wondered aloud while I was still recovering from the breakfast list. "I have green beans but husband will not eat green beans, I will make those just for myself. May be I can make dal makhni for him if I soak dal tonight. Child 1, the fussy eater, is covered because I have paneer but child 2 hates paneer so may be I will make some pasta... "
I was exhausted just listening to this!
I told her she was insane to cater to each person's whims like this at every meal. "What can I do?" she said, "They will not eat well unless I make things they like."
I shared with her some tricks that I have used with my own children and she called me a few days later to report success! Here are a few things you can do to make sure you raise happy, healthy eaters without driving yourself crazy.
1. Instead of trying to make each person happy at each meal, take turns. Make your husband's choice of food for a day, the children's favorites one day each. Don't forget to assign a day to your own choices.
2. Serve very small servings of each item prepared for the day to each person. That is the amount they must eat. They can choose whether or how much to have of each item for seconds.
3. Praise each child's choices of food items. Highlight the health benefits of the items they have chosen.
4. If a child throws a tantrum or refuses to eat, don't offer other options. The reality is, no child will remain hungry for too long. They will come back and want food - offer the same items again.
5. It is perfectly OK for children to eat a limited quantity when the item is not of their choice. Once they have finished everything on the plate first served, offer fruits, nuts or milk if necessary.
6. Every so often, be sure to ask your kids (girl or boy!) to join you as you cook. Ask the little ones to wash or peel, the older ones to chop. The joy in these tasks will carry straight to the dinner table.
7. Serve junk food once in a while and enjoy it!
8. Don't discuss too much with friends or relatives about how little or how much your child eats. Each child is different, as are their food needs.
9. Even if your child is a fussy eater, praise the things he is doing right and pretend to ignore the fussiness. If you refuse to make a big deal out of it, he will soon stop trying to use it to get attention.
10. Remind your children of how lucky they are. Don't be afraid to tell them about the countless people all over the world who are forced to go to bed hungry because they cannot afford food!
Food should be a thing of joy and togetherness, nourishing both body and soul. I hope these tips will make meal times easy and enjoyable!
Also check out 6 Tricks To Get Your Child To Always Talk To You!