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Volume I
May 19, 2000

Peace with kids at mealtime!
May The Force NOT Be With You--

1. Offer Regular Meals and Snacks. Children will feel secure knowing that food will be offered regularly each day. For small children, a three meal-three snack day divides up the hours enough to keep them from being grumpy, yet still hungry at mealtimes. Try this schedule: breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, bedtime snack.

2. Minimize Grazing. Like cattle in a field who eat grass all day just because it's there, many of us eat a handful of food every time we enter the kitchen . . . just because it's there. If your children are grazing all day long, you can be assured that their small tummies won't hold much more at mealtimes.

3. Try, Try Again. It often takes 15 to 20 exposures to a new food before it acquires a place on a child's favorite food list. So if Caleb spits green beans out the first time, or even the twentieth time, keep bringing those beans to the table. With persistence, they may become familiar enough that he'll only want to eat green beans.

4. Respect Differences of Opinion. My mom loves trout and I hate trout. Though she tried and tried to get me to like it as a child, I still do not like trout. Some foods, no matter how many times they're offered, will always stay on your child's "Yucky" list, even into adulthood. What food disgusts you?

5. Let 'Em Explore! Children are learning to master the skills of eating and that takes time. Often, our time-crunched schedules conflict with our child's putting food in, taking it out, putting food in, taking it out, putting food in, and swallowing it exploration. But, that's the way they learn to master food-it's taste, texture, and color. Patience with exploring now will pay big dividends later when you can exclaim, "My child eats everything I set before him."

6. Bribes Are Illegal! A parent says "I'll give you some yummy chocolate pudding if you eat all of your potato." A child hears, "Chocolate pudding is better than disgusting potatoes and my Dad doesn't expect me to learn to like spuds." From here on out, that parent will most likely clash with his child over potatoes.

7. Set Up for Success. Making food childproof or easy to handle builds confidence in children. The ease of eating ground meat or the fun texture and color of bright crisp-tender vegetables leads to confidence instead of frustration. Common sense things like putting food on plastic dishes that won't break, serving liquids in sippy cups or sturdy glasses that won't spill easily will also help avoid the wrath that comes if the juice spills. Mealtime conversation can even make a difference. If Anna is criticized or reprimanded for grades every time she comes to the dinner table, she'll start to dread mealtime, not wanting to fill up on criticism (or food) day in and day out.

8. Short-order Cooking: Not Allowed. Don't you have enough to do without being the family waiter or waitress, too? Your job is to buy the food, make it, and offer it. If your child turns his nose up at your Chicken Cacciatore, is that your problem? No! Don't get up and make him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Enjoy your hard work while it is still hot. Remember, it is his responsibility to eat, not yours. Establishing a one-bite rule, where everyone has to at least taste the new food before deciding whether to eat up or throw up may help get your child get over his fear of "DISGUSTING." Also, offering more than one food (i.e., main dish, a fruit or vegetable, and bread or starch) will give your child an outlet if he can't stomach the main course.

9. Stick to Your Guns. Consistency will always keep you in the Captain's seat when it comes to mealtimes. When your child gets down from the table and then begs for something to eat 30 minutes later, don't give in! Abide by the rules you've set and let her suffer the consequences of HER choice. Rest easy knowing that she'll get a nutritious snack in about two hours.

10. Promote Mealtime Manners. A pleasant atmosphere for eating makes mealtimes happy times. If Sally doesn't want to eat her corn, she can let you know in a quiet manner; you don't have to tolerate her shouting, "I HATE CORN! I WON'T EAT IT!" Nor, do you have to watch John spit out his mushy peas one by one. Teaching children polite ways to deal with food, will not only create a respectful atmosphere at home, but also eliminate those potentially embarrassing moments at the restaurant when the waiter brings Sally a serving of corn by mistake.

And one last punch: never underestimate the power of EXAMPLE. If you will model healthy eating behaviors, your child, who aspires to be like you, will most likely learn to love a variety of foods, as well! Good luck, and may the force Not be with you.

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