Family mealtimes can be a tug-o-war or a negotiation session between the kids and the parents.
Why not try some of these tried and tested methods that led to happier meal times?
1. Serve vegetables first and when they are most hungry
Pamela Druckerman, author of Bringing Up Bebe, observed French mothers when she lived in France and advises parents to do this as well. Since certain vegetables can be bitter or have the ‘green’ taste, serve them with tasty dips such as hummus, cream cheese or yogurt.
2. Don’t force feed the kids
Druckerman also observed that French mums do not force feed their kids but the kids must taste each dish on the table. They will reintroduce the food the children don’t like in another meal with a different preparation.
She also recommended keeping mealtimes short and friendly, about 20 minutes. We do not need to adhere strictly to her timing but keep in mind that no one wants to eat at an unhappy table.
3. Involve them in meal preparations
This works quite well because they get to see where their food comes from and how it is made. My mum used to have us crack our eggs. Children can also help bake simple recipes with supervision. Maybe even create a role play and let them set the table. Setting the table creates an anticipation for family meal times.
4. Let the kids create their meals (with ground rules of course!)
This suggestion may not sit well with adults but hear me out: There are going to be weird combos (sometimes it ends up tasty!) but let them experiment. Possibilities include mayo and rice, French fries with ice-cream, spaghetti tacos and the list can go on!
L.R. Knorst of Buzzfeed did an experiment on gentle parenting and let her children experiment, with some ground rules, which resulted in some hilarious results. She said the following:
What I learned from this whole week of them choosing their foods is that they are more likely to eat the entire plate if they have chosen what they are going to have. And ultimately, they’ll get what they need nutrition wise, just maybe in a really weird way.
5. Decorate their meals or let them decorate the meals themselves
The aim is to make food interesting visually. Think of food presentation and colours. Sometimes sprinkling furikake on the rice is enough to liven up our food staple. My mum used to make a bird’s nest out of my sister’s noodles; fish balls were the eggs and nestled in the middle of the noodles.
Maybe you can be sneaky and sneak in some blended greens and convince them it’s ‘decorations.’ My sister even got to use baking moulds to cut her sandwiches into animal shapes, gingerbread man and woman.
6. Have fixed meal times and only one snack time
If the kids are full from snack time, it’s going to be tough convincing them to finish full meals. Fixed meal times also regulates appetite and prevent gastric problems for everyone in the family. A routine not only helps children to have a semblance of how time works but it also provides a sense of security and certainty for children. Besides, a family that eats together stays together!
7. Let them grow some vegetables or fruits
Gardening is also a good opportunity to educate them about healthy eating habits. Tomatoes are easy to plant and kids enjoy having some gardening responsibilities. Assign tasks such as planting the seeds, watering and harvesting to them. Watch their excitement as they see their plants change and grow to bear fruits. Kids enjoy eating what they planted and looked after on their own because it gives a sense of ownership.