Last time we talked about a step by step approach to fostering healthy eating habits and what healthy eating might look like. We started by saying creating a positive attitude towards food begins at an early age and that as parents we role model food preferences every day, both consciously and unconsciously. Therefore, fostering a healthy attitude towards food begins at home. Today, we’ll look at snacking and mindful eating.
Try planning snack times that don’t interfere with mealtimes. Sometimes a “picky eater” is actually one who just isn’t hungry.
Remember a healthy snack and a treat are not the same thing and your child should be aware of this. A sundae on a Sunday in celebration of a special event is fun and a treat.
Every day snacks should be nutritious SUPPLEMENTS to their daily requirements and consist of fruits, veggies, yogurts and granola bars (for example.) Make snack time fun by using cookie cutters, and offering food with different colours and textures.
Use yogurt as a dipping sauce for fruit and healthy salad dressings as a dipping sauce for veggies. Who doesn’t like to dip!
Let your little one plan and pack snacks by using handy, small portable containers with colourful lids and then encourage snacking, at pre-approved times that fit YOUR schedule, by naming the lid colour – “let’s have our blue snack now.”
Let’s end with this positive affirmation. Your child isn’t a picky eater, they are “mindful.” They have watched you closely, observed your attitudes towards food and those of their friends at preschool. They are asserting their “authority” over an area they believe they should have some control over. In many ways, our children follow our commands all day long along with little say or control. Food is an area where they feel they can exert some of that control. The more you involve them in the process the more potential there is for experimentation. Remember, your picky eater is asserting a preference and as they get older and we encourage making appropriate choices these early dinner table battles might prove to have been helpful learning opportunities on how to negotiate and make decisions!
When struggling over a food, take a deep breath, (practicing mindful behaviour in the middle of a food battle might be a good thing for parents too!) and then encourage a discussion about likes and dislikes. You might even try making a list together of your child’s likes and dislikes and then making sure that each meal contains at least one item from the “like” list. If a battle ensues, you can at least agree together that if they eat ALL of the one thing they DO like on the plate, they only have to try ONE spoonful of the items they don’t like.
At Alpha’s Preschool Academy, we aim to make mealtime both a positive and nutritious experience. We follow the Canada Food Guide and find interesting ways to incorporate all food groups in our meals and snacks. Check out our menu for some great ideas you can incorporate into your own home. Remember, by creating a positive environment and implementing some of these handy tips you can turn your “Picky Peter” into a mindful eater!