By: Holly L. Goroff MS, RD, CDN
As an experienced dietitian in both clinical and community nutrition, I don’t have many rules when it comes to health and wellness. I have the information, ability to motivate, perspective and strategy. I find empowering people with these qualities to meet their wellness goals is MUCH more effective for success then giving a bunch of rules, ‘do’s and don’ts’ and a meal plan. That said, I do have a one rule that I believe is crucial when trying to get young children to eat healthy: No two meals for any one meal time.
I work with both adult and childhood obesity clients and hear this all too often - ‘I want to eat healthier but my kids don’t like it so I make something for me and something for them’. This should not be the case as everyone in your family should be eating the same healthy meals.
No two meals for any one meal time means if one member of the family is trying to eat healthier and meet their wellness goals, and are making meals that help accomplish those goals, then that should be the dinner for the whole family.
When you set this rule, children learn the benefits of healthy eating and following the rules of the parent.
How To Implement The Rule
I understand this might be a difficult rule to implement, especially if you have been serving two different meals and are looking to make a switch back to one.
A really helpful tip that I have is to allow your children to participate in any part of the meal, whether it is purchasing the foods at the market with you, washing or cutting the foods, or stirring the pot (with adult supervision). This hands on activity will increase their interest in trying the foods and even taking pride in helping with dinner.
If children have a tantrum because they did not get what they wanted at meal time, it is important to remember that the parent knows best, and succumbing to making the second meal because children put up a fight means essentially that they, the children, are calling the shots - I know it’s a harsh reality. These moments when parents stand their ground and set “tough” rule are life lessons for the children, and will resonate far beyond the dinner table.
If you need to encourage yourself (because this transition may be hard depending on the children and their relationship with food so far) remember that by having children eat healthier more often, you are helping them avoid being in the position of having to change their dietary patterns to remain healthy in the future. They will learn to love their fruits and veggies and will mirror your health eating behaviors.
If you have further questions feel free to post them at The Mobile Dietitian on Facebook!
What are meal times like in your home? Do your children happily eat that same meal as the adults?
About the Author: Holly is an experienced dietitian in both clinical and community nutrition. She is currently serving as the Clinical Nutrition Manager at now guest blogger for Choosy Kids!
She received her Master of Science degree in Nutrition and Food Studies from the Steinhardt School at New York University. She is published through her research and contributing work at Burke Rehabilitation Center investigating nutritional factors impacting neurological rehabilitation in stroke patients.
In addition to managing her staff of clinical nutritionists, she has a passion for serving at-need and underserved communities. She teaches outreach programs focused on mindful eating and strategies to make healthier lifestyle choices to at-risk community populations. She has recently been made lead in her hospital for teaching and managing the outreach classes to reduce childhood obesity.
She has expertise in: weight loss and management, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dealing with polypharmacy and achieving nutrition goals, achieving wellness goals in a creative and resourceful manner and motivating change.