Stress Free Meals in 2024

Making new year’s resolutions this year? Improving stressful mealtimes at home are a great addition to the list of things you want to improve. And guess what? Its absolutely possible. Here are my top four tips to make this year run more smoothly for your family and especially your picky eaters.

1. Encourage mealtime and snacks at a scheduled time each day

We typically encourage children to eat three meals and two snacks a day. We also like for these times to be spaced out by two hours. When we keep mealtimes consistent everyday, it helps our children’s bodies to regulate around food. They can feel hunger cues and then satiation cues. These are lifelong skills that will help them develop a healthy relationship with food. 

2. Introduce a transition activity before mealtime

We have busy lives and our days are full; however, when we eat a meal we should try to shed that stress and sit down to a calm table. Using transitions is a very helpful way to alert your children that they are going to do a new activity and also a great way to separate the stress of the day from mealtimes. I often suggest to parents to give a five minute warning to kids before the meal, have children help set the table, and wash their hands before sitting down to the table. Rituals like this are important because we can do them with little thinking – they allow our minds to rest. In feeding therapy, we use songs during transitions as well. You could make a family mealtime song or simply turn on calming and soft music to signal it’s mealtime. 

3. All members of the family should sit at the table together

This is a hard one due to our busy schedules, but it’s an important aspect of feeding for your children. There is significant research to show that children eat more and eat better when they are eating with their family members. Kids want to please their parents and they want approval. Eating together builds trust between parent and child as well. This is another way to prevent picky eating. Think about what changes you can make in your home to make it more pleasurable for everyone. This is where thinking about nourishment and nutrition come in to play. You don’t want to get into a battle with your children at mealtimes. It makes you both feel frustrated and can cause feelings of anxiety in your children. They don’t want to feel that they are disappointing you – help set them up for success!

4. Family meals should be served to all members of the family sitting at the table

It is the adult’s job to set the menu and decide what the family will eat at the meal. That said, you should always provide at least one food that your child willingly eats. Imagine you sat down at a restaurant and you start to peruse the menu. You see nothing that you like on the menu. Are you going to stay at the table and order non-preferred foods? Probably not. Imagine if you look at the menu and see a dish that contains one thing you like and one thing you don’t like. You are more likely to order the dish and you may even pick at and try that food you “don’t like”. That’s what it’s like for your child when they sit down at the table and are served some preferred foods and non-preferred foods. 

Members in your family may have different favorites and that’s okay. What is important is that everyone be offered all the foods on the table. When we limit the foods we serve to only preferred foods, the child doesn’t even have the opportunity to try a new food. Exposure to new foods gives your children the “opportunity” rather than a “demand.” Even better, if you serve food family style on platters, kids have to pass a non-preferred food from one family member to another, and they will smell it. That’s exposure! 

Written by: Rachael Rose, Owner/Founder

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