If your son willingly eats everything he is presented at meal times – read no further. This article is for those parents whose boys push their dinner plates to the middle of the table and loudly proclaim they will not be eating “that?!” because they “don’t like that”, despite having no idea what said “that” exactly is.
If you are struggling to feed your hungry son nutritious, diverse evening meals – you are far from alone. Parents of young boys who do not like to try new things, green things, brown things, hard things… the list is endless – keep trying to entice their boys with different mealtime options, unfortunately usually with a high failure rate.
Mealtimes with boys who battle with new foods, or those beyond the spectrum of chips and pizza, can become a bit of a battleground. At the end of the day, cooking multiple meals to please everyone in the family is not a great solution, nor is chips and pizza every night. So what can parents do to try to get their boys to eat healthy options?
Confident Body, Confident Child developer and La Trobe University psychology and public health professor Susan Paxton told ABC News there are four key things parents can do to promote healthy eating in children;
Promote a healthy relationship with food
- Make nutritious food options readily available at home.
- Explain the difference between “everyday” foods and “sometimes” foods and avoid labels such as good/bad, toxic/clean, junk/healthy food.
- Allow children to eat “sometimes” foods in moderation, banning is more likely to lead to over-eating these foods (and drinks) when they are available.
- Be a good role model — eat a balanced variety and amount of nutritious foods and drinks, eat breakfast and do not skip meals
- Model eating “sometimes” foods in moderation, without talking about being bad or feeling guilty.
Prioritise family meals
- Regular family meals can help kids develop a healthy attitude towards food, and it also gives you a chance to role model healthy eating patterns.
- Family traditions based around meals, such as a Sunday roast, can help children develop positive memories with food.
- You are more likely to get the most out of family meals if you focus on connecting with your child rather than on what or how much they are eating.
- It is also helpful to turn off the TV and other devices and involve your children in work associated with the family meal, where you can.
Don’t use food as a reward
- Find non-food ways to praise and reward children, for instance create a sticker chart or spend time together.
- Praise children for their character rather than what they eat.
- Help your child explore a range of ways to calm down.
Eat when you are hungry
- Have a variety of food available, but encourage your children to take the responsibility for their eating choices, by taking food and drink from that selection. (you do not need to have all types of food in every meal — children will absorb the nutrients they need over time so look at their dietary intake over a week or two.)
- Help children to self-regulate their eating by identifying feelings of hunger and fullness.
- Avoid telling them to eat everything on their plate.
- Avoid strict rules around the foods your child eats.