10 Tips to Stop the Dinner Table Wars

By Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian for BabyFit

As a new parent, your days are probably pretty stressful. You care for your little one, get the older kids off to school, run errands, keep the household running smoothly, and maintain your career. At the end of a hard day, you just want to relax and spend some quality time with your family.

But if you're like most busy parents, this is nothing more than wishful thinking. As the house fills up again at night, there's noise, tantrums, and disorganization, which seem to last until everyone falls asleep. Mealtime, whether it's breakfast together or a family dinner, doesn't have to be as stressful as the rest of your day. Here are some tips to handle picky-eaters, set an example of healthy eating (which children learn from their parents), and make your meals together a more positive experience:

  • Try to serve food in a comfortable, relaxed, and unhurried atmosphere.
  • Encourage play BEFORE a meal.
  • Encourage a child's participation in meal preparation (measuring, stirring, decorating, cutting and arranging).
  • Food should be warm or cool, (not hot or cold); a child's mouth is more sensitive than an adult's.
  • Flavors should be mild, not spicy; a child has more taste buds than an adult
  • If child is able, give her a small, mini-shopping list to look for a few items on the lower shelves. Make sure the foods are nutritious and easy to handle.
  • If you want to avoid waste, serve smaller portions. Don't encourage overeating or fussy eaters by forcing a child to eat everything on the plate.
  • Let your child learn to feed her or himself. Be patient. To ease the mess, put newspaper under the chair and have a towel ready to wipe up spills.
  • Serve food with child-sized plates and cups.
  • If possible, plan rest or quiet time before meals. A tired or overly excited child may be less hungry at mealtimes.

Related links:

The 10 Commandments of Healthy Eating for Parents

A Parent's Guide to Nutrition for Kids--Part 1

A Parent's Guide to Nutrition for Kids--Part 2

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