Mealtime Mastery

Does your household experience mealtime madness? This blog post is about how to leave those days behind you and instead achieve mealtime mastery.

As parents, we anticipate that our children will not only eat the food we’ve so lovingly prepared, they’ll also enjoy it. The actual reality of rejected food and a mountain of tears can come as a shock.

If this is you, you’re likely to now dread each mealtime. You’re consumed with thoughts such as … ‘he can’t possibly be eating enough’, ‘why won’t she just eat her veggies’, ‘pu-lease put some of that food in your mouth’, ‘here we go, another mealtime, another tantrum’! It’s especially stressful for those of you whose child is falling behind on the weight percentile growth charts.

Read on for some much needed food for thought. Let me help you in creating truly nourishing mealtimes. Here’s 3 key strategies for creating mealtime mastery!

1. Make Every Bite Count

Why do you need to make every bite count? Young children, toddlers especially, can thrive on a very small quantity of food. What do you think is better, filling up on 6 rice crackers which are nutritionally void or a bowl of pumpkin soup?

The bulk of your child’s diet should be real food. Things that don’t come out of a packet. Things that the body actually recognises as food. Things that the body can use for growth, development, and optimal wellness.

How to:

  • Cut down on snacks or remove them altogether, creating more hunger for those nourishing meals

  • Scrap the bottles of milk and formula for toddlers, they perpetuate the cycle of fussy eating

  • Tweak the times of main meals. If breakfast is the meal that everyone eats in abundance, make it a wholesome feast! Ditch the cereal and replace it with a stew, roast, leftovers… anything.

  • Increase nutrient density. For example, chocolate mousse can be made with chocolate and cream OR it can be made with avocado, honey, raw cocoa (with a sneaky dash of probiotic powder). Both are delicious, however only the second provides the body with the building blocks for life.

  • Skip dessert altogether or just save it for when you have guests. Even if it’s only fruit and yogurt, a child can afford to be fussy when there’s always something to fill up on later.

2. Create Peaceful Mealtime Rituals

If you’re stressed out about mealtimes, your child is likely to be too. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if mealtimes were relaxing again? If they were a time to eat, connect and enjoy a sense of togetherness?

How to:

  • Eat together at the table

  • Play soothing music that relaxes you and your child

  • Prioritise family time. Turn off the TV and put all electronic gadgets away

  • Model positive communication. Ask everyone at the table to share one thing that went well that day or to talk about what they are grateful for. If your children are too young to participate, recount the positive aspects of what happened that day. These feel-good interactions will become the focus of the mealtime, rather than the food itself.

  • Positive mealtime behaviours receive positive attention, negative mealtime behaviours get zero attention

  • Remove expectations about what will be eaten and in what quantity. Leave this in your child’s hands.

  • Breath, just breath!

3. Lead By Example

Your children are watching every move you make. If you want your child to eat more vegetables, to chew more, to drink more water…do it yourself first and lead by example.

How to:

  • Eat what you’re asking your child to eat

  • Only have good food on offer in the fridge and pantry

  • Sit down to eat together at the majority of mealtimes, where possible

  • Respect your child’s feelings. Don’t force new foods on them-you wouldn’t like it! Instead, place a small addition of something new next to an already loved food.

Be Mindful…

There may be a very specific cause of your child’s eating challenges. Individuals who have kept their oral baby reflexes may find chewing, swallowing and embracing new food textures to be problematic-frightening even. Read more about these reflexes here.

If you believe retained reflexes may be contributing to mealtime madness, please combine the ideas within this blog post with a primitive reflex integration program.

Just Do It!

These strategies are only going to create positive change if you actually do them!

It’s the small sustainable changes we implement that make the biggest difference in our lives. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, just make a start. Choose one strategy that resonates with you the most and put it into action today!


Well, what one did you choose?

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