“I don’t like that.” “I don’t want to eat that.” “That looks yucky.” Do any of these sound familiar? Have your children said these in the past when it comes to meal time? Thanksgiving is a time of gathering and eating food. Some of these foods may be different than what your child normally eats. It is also a good time to allow them to explore new foods. Below are some tips to help prevent a meltdown when it comes to meal time.
• Find at least one food that your child already knows and likes. You can do this if you are preparing the meal at home or if you are going to someone else’s house for your dinner celebration. If you are going to someone else’s house, you can offer to bring something you know your child will enjoy so that you are guaranteed to get them to eat at least one item on their plate.
• Encourage your child to help prepare the food. Getting the child active and involved will help them feel more connected to the foods and may make them more willing to try different foods. For young children, you can have them help clean the fruits or vegetables. For older children’s, try having them help mash the potatoes or add ingredients to a recipe with assistance.
• Have your child help you plan the meal or what you will bring to someone else’s house. If you are dining at home, your child can help pick out at least one grain, one vegetable and one fruit. Then have your child help your find recipes for these food ideas.
• Try making the food look delicious and festive. Most children don’t like vegetables but if you arrange the vegetables in the shape of a turkey, they may be more willing to try some of them.
• Find foods your child likes and then encourage them to try foods that are similar textures, flavors or colors. For example, if your child likes pumpkin pie, they could try sweet potatoes as something new.
• Encourage children to watch their portions so they are not miserable after the meal. Suggest limiting to a single plate of food and saving the remainder of the food they like for left overs instead of eating everything at once.
• Relax and enjoy your time together. If kids sense that you are stressed, they are more likely to feel stressed and not eat well. Remember this is a day about gratitude and thanksgiving. Be thankful for the blessings around you and teach your children to be thankful as well.
With these tips, hopefully you and your family will have a very Happy Thanksgiving.
— Dr. Jessilyn Humble is a pediatrician at Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg.