Mealtimes for young children can be a tricky ordeal for some parents. In some cases, children will just flat out refuse to eat anything that’s put in front of them, and in others, you may find that half of the food on the plate finds itself thrown around the room and the other half is smeared across their face. These behaviors are of course what being a child is all about, but how should we as parents serve up food to our little ones to ensure they develop a healthy relationship with what they eat? Here at NetCost Market Philadelphia, we’ve got some facts and ideas that we hope will help parents make mealtimes a time for learning and exploring a new world of culinary experiences for their little ones.
Parents are often reluctant to let their kids serve themselves at dinner time, and for good reason! We all know that left to their own devices, the majority of the food wouldn’t make it anywhere near their dinner plate! But, allowing children to serve themselves may have more developmental benefits than you realize and in fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that parents allow kids from the age of 2 years old serve themselves at home. Allowing children to serve themselves helps build a healthy relationship with food by encouraging them to eat what they choose, instilling a sense of autonomy that encourages them to enjoy a wider variety of foodstuffs (hopefully some healthy options included) and is likely to make them open to trying new things in the future! It also means they’re likely to eat what they feel is a good portion, therefore discouraging overeating. Additionally, it also helps to build important motor skills!
A positive and social environment
Getting kids to eat what you would like them to eat can be an arduous task that really tests the patience. Whether they’re refusing to eat or throwing food around the table, kids can sometimes be the hardest people to reason with! In these situations, communication is key. Making dinnertime a positive, social event will help to encourage your child to be more outgoing with their exploration of food – helping them to develop healthier eating habits and of course building those all-important social skills.
Clean plates create problems
Many of us out there have grown up with the idea that a clean plate is what should be left at the end of a meal, but this philosophy is now being challenged by child behaviorists. It’s important to let children know that they should finish eating when they recognize they’re full because it reduces the chances of overeating in the future. Following the self-service rule above helps this, and “guiding”, rather than dictating the portion size that your child eats is the best way to help them develop a healthy relationship with food.
Making mealtimes a safe environment for children is the key to getting them to want to eat a healthy diet and with healthy portion sizes. Unfortunately for parents, this may mean having to put up with mess and stress at dinnertime, but the development of a good relationship with food for your child is much more important than worrying about messy mealtimes! Try taking a trip to NetCost Market to see the great array of healthy products that we provide that will help your child grow up having great eating habits and mealtime etiquette.