Picking the right moment

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Kids who fuss over food can be a right pain and often turn into food-faddy teenagers who would have the family cook prepare several different meals of an evening. It’s a problem best not tackled head-on, writes Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
Now’s a great time to make mealtimes family affairs at the table since very few of us have an excuse to be elsewhere. What’s more, there’s time to establish a good policy of having all remain at the table until everyone has finished. Even a child not eating should remain.

Providing a variety of foods allows for some variation in tastes without having to provide totally different meals. Perhaps six vegetables if you can and have different sauces available if you have meat. If dessert is on the menu, offer the choice of a prepared dish and a raw fruit.

Dish small portions of new foods. They can always come back for seconds, and portion sizes can be increased the next time.

The worst thing you can do is to force a child to eat a particular food, for example, by making them sit there until it’s finished. There could be a rule that three or four mouthfuls must be eaten and then the rest can be left. Dessert would still be available if they do this.

However, if a large amount of the main meal is left uneaten, that’s it until the next meal.

But always: each new meal should be a fresh start.

A child’s tastes won’t be as sophisticated as an adult’s and, while the old "meat and three vege" used to be fine for everyone, many of today’s foods can be acquired tastes. What they won’t eat now they may eat in a year’s time so long as it hasn’t been the centre of a great battle. Our 8 year old now eats onion and has begun sampling mushroom.

Food can also be disguised by putting small amounts in pasta, a quiche or an omelette.

Don’t tolerate comments that there’s something wrong with the food. Respond calmly that all the food you prepare is healthy and nutritious.

Don’t accept negotiating on their part. The only discussion should be to compliment or thank the cook.

Another approach could be to ask a persistent complainer to leave the table but could come back when ready to eat without further discussion of the food. Choosing not to return means there’s nothing to eat until the next meal or maybe just a banana, apple, carrot or celery.

Always bear in mind that healthy children won’t starve themselves and, so long as they can’t stuff themselves full of junk food, will usually eat well at the next meal, especially if they’ve helped to prepare it.


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