June 25, 2017

I am NOT a Short-Order Cook

Wouldn’t it be nice and easy if everyone in the family enjoyed the same foods, and wanted the same thing for dinner each and every night? As a parent trying to juggle work and family responsibilities, mealtime can be a time to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company, or it can be a trying time as you attempt to please everyone. Add to the mix a child who is a very picky eater and you may end up making several different meals to accommodate everyone’s request. It may be fish for you and your partner, chicken nuggets for your 7 year old, and macaroni and cheese for your 4 year old. STOP! It does not have to be this way, nor should it. As a parent, you have a responsibility to make sure that your children eat healthy and balanced meals. As tempting as it may be to make different, easy dishes to please everyone, this is actually doing your children a disservice. You may be surprised to learn that your children actually like “adult” foods and, even if they don’t, they can learn to adjust. Below are some suggestions to get you out of the kitchen faster.

  • Plan your weekly menu in advance and solicit input from everyone in the family. If you and your partner want to have stuffed sole and the kids make gagging sounds, ask for their input on side dishes that they will eat.
  • Encourage your children to help cook and prepare meals. Your child may be more interested in trying something if she helped prepare it.
  • Be sure to make a few dishes each week that your children have chosen. If you want to stay away from chicken nuggets yourself, offer a healthy salad to accompany the nuggets that you can make into your meal.
  • Make only one main dish each night and establish this as the new rule. You can let your children know that this may be different than it use to be, but it means less work for you and more time to spend doing something fun together after dinner.
  • Don’t get overly concerned if your child won’t eat everything on her plate. If she is truly refusing to eat, remind her that there are plenty of side dishes from which to choose. If you suspect that she will be hungry 1/2 hour after dinner because she hardly ate, save her plate. When she starts to complain about being hungry, offer her the food she did not eat. If she is truly hungry enough, she’ll eat it.
  • It is OK to deprive your child of dessert if he does not eat enough of his meal. This should be a reward, not a given.
  • Don’t give in. In the long run, each and every one of you will be happier and will be well fed!!

Laura Jacobson, LICSW, CEAP