Dinner is ready, let’s eat!

26 Aug

Family eating together

What type of emotion comes to your mind when you hear that phrase? Happiness, worry, satisfaction, or frustration? Many parents faced a daily battle making sure that their children are eating healthy. I recently attended the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, and had the opportunity to listen to two excellent presentations from nationally recognized nutrition experts. Ellyn Satter and Dr. Michelle May exposed their points of views about us and the relationship we have with food. Ellyn is recognized for her work related to the dynamics of feeding between parents and children. And Dr. May is well known for her book titled “Eat what you love, Love what you eat”.

Ellyn reminds us that we need courage to allow our kids to develop their individualities related to eating. Our job as parents is to expose them to a variety of foods and to refrain from giving them only the ones they like. If we do a good job, then we should allow them to decide how much they are going to eat. It is important that parents set a good example about how to behave at the dinner table; if we want them to eat healthy, then we have to do the same.

Dr. May reminds us in one of her articles that children are born with the ability to know when they are hungry. They express it with their cry and also when they spit food back to us when we are feeding them with a spoon. There is when the battle to convince them to eat more than what they need starts, framed by our own experiences. Dr. May agrees that kids need to use their own cues to decide when and what are they going to eat. Once again, the parent’s job is to provide nutritious and fun foods, teach them to eat in moderation and showing them a great example by practicing an active and healthy lifestyle.

One more publication comes to our rescue. The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension newsletter for nutrition and health for August, written by our own specialist Connie Crawley provides us with the following tips:

1-     Remember that kids need to be exposed to a new food between 7- 15 times for them to be able to develop the taste for a food item even if they did not like before.

2-     Do not pressure them to eat.

3-     Encourage them to eat different foods by using descriptive words like soft, sweet and crispy.

4-     Introduce new foods when eating at the table together. Use the family dinner style serving the food in dishes that allows everybody to serve themselves.

5-     Remember that each child is different and the way they eat is an essential part of their personality.

I hope that the next time you hear “food is ready please come eat”, all the family members will come to the table with a smile full of satisfaction even before tasting the first bite.

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