Food fights with your children are virtually unavoidable. Kids are notoriously unpredictable, loving something one minute, then hating it the next. Sound familiar? You're not alone.
There are a couple explanations for this phenomenon. Children's taste buds change as they age- meaning something may literally no longer taste good. Children also begin to desire owning some level of control over their lives as they get older. Food choice is a natural place for this desire to manifest.
When it comes to food, child nutrition experts have this advice: adults get to decide what kids eat and kids get to decide how much they eat (which could be nothing). It's called the division of responsibility and it's a great tool to employ when your three-year-old isn't interested in the food you've offered.
Food fights might be inevitable, but that doesn't mean snack time needs to be painful. Offering them some options and getting them involved in meal selection and preparation is a great way to turn the tables.
Prepping for dinner
Having some fun in the kitchen can go a long way. Think about investing in an apron and some kid-safe kitchen equipment so that they can help with chopping vegetables and measuring out ingredients. While at the grocery store or in the kitchen, play the “would you rather” game. Give them options, for instance, with vegetables. Ask, “Would you rather have corn or Brussels sprouts?” It'll help them feel empowered and be more open to their food options. Feeling a little braver? Give them a cookbook and let them decide what meal they'd like to try.
Lunch can be a simpler project to let your little one take-on.
Take advantage of that monotonous lunch that they always want - be it peanut butter and jelly or turkey and Swiss and ask them to prepare it themselves. Here's a great way to fill up their lunchbox.
- Make the sandwich
- Pick a vegetable (cut-up vegetables for a few days at a time)
- Pick a fruit
They don't want sandwiches? Not a problem. Think about creative grab-and-go options and give them this simple guideline: they have to pick three food groups. Their options:
- carbohydrates (whole grain breads, whole wheat crackers)
Here are some ideas:
- Tortilla wraps with shredded cheese, chopped chicken and cut vegetables
- Egg salad, whole-wheat bagel and fruit
- 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt, whole-wheat crackers and fruit
- 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter, whole-grain crackers or bagel and fruit or vegetables
- 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese or hummus, whole-grain crackers and cherry tomatoes
- 1-2 slices leftover thin crust cheese pizza and fruit or vegetables
To help make this idea a success, make sure that there are pre-cut vegetables in the fridge and that kids know what their options are. Walk them through the pantry and point-out the things that they can choose and give them ideas from the options available.
Heather Snively, MS, RD, is a nutrition and wellness manager at Guckenheimer, an on-site corporate restaurant management and catering company. She received her Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Washington in 2011. Heather is passionate about helping others determine the best way to enjoy food and stay healthy. Her food philosophy is simple: moderation in all things, except for vegetables-eat all the vegetables you like.