One of the things I have always been grateful for is the healthy and varied appetite of my son and daughter; however the moment that one of them doesn't eat a full meal, or turns their nose up at a food type, I have an inward panic of sorts... I worry they may starve, or that they have become fussy eaters overnight, or that they are not getting the recommended amount of good stuff. Of course I am aware my concerns are far from rational, and I am pretty certain that all children have their moments of fussiness, but for the majority of us in an abundant modern society, I very much doubt that starvation is going to occur.
In fact, when it comes to abundance - this can often be the root of the problem... children in modern society have loads of choices, they snack more, and they complain more. This is particularly apparent at certain times of year... And one of those occasions is fast approaching... Easter holds varying significance depending on a family's faith, but for more families it leads to consumerism of chocolate and confectionary... some supermarkets have gimmicks of giant chickens, laying giant choc eggs. Other retailers are selling masses of chocolate at super low prices for weeks in advance of the Easter holidays... and so most of us buy, eat, replace, then we buy, eat, replace again, with the mantra of "it's Easter, it's fine..."
I am a recovering chocoholic, although I use the term 'recovering' lightly - as I just eat a lot less than I used to, because I am more mindful now. I ensure that I instil this same mindfulness about food and eating with my children, especially at these festive times of year...
Here are ten top tips to help your children with mindfulness at mealtimes, avoiding over indulgence and fussiness with their food, and improving eating habits:
1. Eat together. Even if it is a small amount you are having, so that they engage in an eating ritual of sorts. Experience the pleasure of food, and the time you are sharing with them. As adults, we consider eating as a social occasion, so we can do this with our children too. Good Friday is a lovely time to share a family meal.
2. Cooking with them. This encourages interest in food, and again adds another dimension to the whole eating experience, even as a toddler they can get involved - putting on their apron, washing hands, helping to set the table. Maybe show them how to cook scrambled eggs this Easter.
3. Play with food. Okay, so we are not supposed to endorse playing with foods, but my husband and I used to get our son (now seven) to guess the ingredients after each mouthful i.e. Basil, cheese etc.
4. Get Creative. Involve your children in the preparation of meals, by asking them to create colourful menus, or drawing pictures of the foods on a paper plate is fun too.
5. Eat the same foods, where possible, and if your child really dislikes something, do not make them eat it - you can generally know the difference between them being fussy and disliking something.
6. Allow drink after food, and not fizzy pop, or juices, as they fill tummies up… also they can see a juice as a treat afterwards. A little bit of water is fine.
7. Have a schedule. My little girl is nearly eighteen months, and I ensure she eats her breakfast when she gets up after being dressed, and then has her lunch around midday, then eats at the same time as the family for the evening meal, or with my son. This keeps her in a routine and she likes having the same foods as her brother.
8. Be consistent. Sometimes kids are fussy because we give them attention, especially related to eating. We are eager that they are nourished, so we often back down just so they eat something. Focus on the times they eat in the way that suits the whole family, and positively reinforce this… Don't cook different meals for everybody, and if you threaten "no treats" or "no dessert", then stick to it every time.
9. Teach gratitude towards their meals. If your children learn to be grateful, they will pretty much eat what you cook. Depending on their age, discuss with them how not all children in world have food or fresh water like they do. Ensure they say 'thank you' to you for cooking for them, and in turn say 'thanks', or praise them for eating well.
10. Be mindful of when they snack, and what they are snacking on… apples are okay for before meals, but a banana will fill them up. Save sweets, crisps, and even Easter eggs for treat time.
Have a cracking... and mindful Easter!
By J P Martin
Be the Best Model of Yourself Possible!