By Brittany Lightsey, MS, RD, LD
Parents often come to my office defeated, tired, and overwhelmed. Feeding a busy household is a tough job. Set household rules to keep your family on track (and to keep your sanity!). Here are some strategies that are key to a happy, healthy home.
- Set structured meal and snack times.
Timing is so important. Adopt a meal and snack schedule in your household to prevent grazing. I like to think the kitchen is open or the kitchen is closed. When the kitchen is open, we can have a healthy snack or meal. If the kitchen is closed, we need to stick to water. This helps to prevent boredom eating.
- Keep healthy options on hand.
Create a healthy snack drawer in your refrigerator filled with zip-lock bags of fruits and veggies, washed and sliced strawberries or melon, cheese sticks and yogurt. Avoid keeping treats in the house and leave those for special occasions. Take your family out for ice cream instead of keeping the indulgence at arm’s length. If you decide to keep less-than-healthy options close by, you have to be OK if your child chooses to eat it. I often see parents who are struggling with their children sneaking food, when the reality is – it is an enormous amount of responsibility to place on a child to avoid tempting foods. Food tastes GOOD! Help your children to avoid temptation but keeping foods like chips, cookies, and ice cream out of the house.
- Prepare one healthy meal at dinnertime.
I like to refer to this as the P’s & C’s after the Strong4Life Movement. Your job as a parent is to plan, prepare, and provide healthy meals. Your child’s job is to choose whether or not to eat it. The good news for you? If you have hard-to-please kiddos in your house, don’t stress about making meals to please everyone. Studies show that kiddos do not go to bed hungry. Role model healthy habits and your kiddos will catch on.
Introduce, introduce, introduce!
Offer new foods on the same plate with others your child already enjoys. Repeatedly offering foods also increases the chances a child will accept it. Think the more, the better. CONSIDER THIS: – even up to 14 times! Allow a “no thank you bite,” taking one bite of a new fruit or vegetable and allowing your child to say “no thank you” if he/she does not like it after tasting it.
- Keep TVs off and electronics away from the table.
These distract our attention away from eating and we often eat too much. Another downside? Our kids are not learning how to socialize with each other. Take advantage of this precious time with your family to converse and role model healthy eating.